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What a truly remarkable Test match we witnessed at Headingley.
West Indies – against all odds – completed a fourth-innings run-chase by scoring 322-5 to beat England and level the three-match series at 1-1.
It was a very flawed Test match in that I cannot recall ever seeing a side win after dropping seven catches, but I don’t want to take anything away from Jason Holder’s side.
The way they batted on the final day – and indeed performed over the majority of this Test – was against everyone’s expectations.
When I arrived at Headingley on the final day, there was drizzle in the air, it was overcast and James Anderson was three wickets from taking 500 in Tests.
It appeared to be all set in England’s favour – especially when you also consider West Indies lost 19 wickets in just one day in the previous Test at Edgbaston.
Unfortunately for England, however, Alastair Cook dropped Kraigg Brathwaite on four and that set the tone for what was to follow on an absorbing final day.
We knew Brathwaite, who went on to make 95, was a good player and would dig in, but the way the likes of Shai Hope – who made centuries in both innings, Roston Chase (30) and Jermaine Blackwood (41) remained composed was incredible.
These are inexperienced cricketers who have never been in this situation before – England, remember, hadn’t lost a Test to West Indies in this country since 2000.
The whole team played their part in an amazing turnaround in fortunes. Shannon Gabriel, for example, was a fantastic addition to the bowling attack with his extra pace.
It is a significant moment for West Indies cricket and I hope it can lead to some sort of consistency.
They have a talented group of young players and, in Stuart Law, a very good coach. They need to use this as a springboard for bigger and better things.
No criticism of England’s declaration
What I won’t accept is that England’s declaration on day four – when they led by 321 runs with two second-wickets in hand – was anything other than the right decision.
England play positive cricket and it was a positive declaration. They gave themselves a chance of winning the Test.
Unfortunately for Joe Root and his team, West Indies played better than them on the final day.
Their defeat could have been worse, though. As I mentioned earlier, West Indies dropped seven catches during the course of this match.
There are still question marks over their number three position. I think Tom Westley has been found out, and both Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan missed out on opportunities to post a big score.
Both made half-centuries in the second innings and showed some good application at times, but questions will be asked once again if they fail in the third Test at Lord’s.
I suspect England’s batting order will be discussed right up until the first ball of this winter’s Ashes series is bowled at Brisbane on 23 November.
England are facing such a significant challenge in Australia, they have to get the right players in.
Well done to the umpires
Finally, I want to commend the umpires for letting the game finish in conditions where natural light had been overtaken by the floodlights.
It was the right decision and bad light was not the reason England lost.
There was no danger to the batsmen and it ensured we saw a result.
It is worth pointing out it is unlikely the teams would have been playing in such light on day two, for example. Had they gone off for bad light earlier in the Test then that would have effectively taken the decision out of the umpires’ control.
They have to be fair and consistent over the five days so the fact there had been no issues with the light on the previous four days helped West Indies.
It ensured we will go to a decider at Lord’s for the final Test of the summer. It should be a fantastic spectacle at the Home of Cricket next week.
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