The teams travelled up in their biosecure bubble to Manchester for the second Test, with news that James Anderson and Mark Wood would be rested. Joe Root returned after parental leave, Joe Denly who making way for him and Zak Crawley moving up to three. Then, on the morning of the match, it was announced that Jofra Archer had breached the protocols and driven up via his home in Brighton, and so had to be placed in isolation. He put out a contrite statement of apology, noting that he had endangered both sides by doing this. As Ashley Giles later commented, there were millions of pounds’ worth of revenue at stake to get this series to go ahead, allowed only because of the efforts made to keep everyone safe, so this was a very serious issue. It meant a complete change to the fast bowling line-up, with Stuart Broad, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes all coming in. West Indies, by contrast, were unchanged after their win.
Having won the toss, Jason Holder decided to bowl first, with dull overhead conditions giving him hope that his bowlers might be able to extract something from it all, as they had at Southampton. But the wicket also looked good, and there was a sense that this might not have been the worst toss to lose for England as they became the first side to be put in to bat in a Test at Old Trafford since 1993.
Once that decision had been taken, Holder needed his bowlers to perform as well as they had at the Ageas Bowl, but Shannon Gabriel looked stiff and wayward to start and so Rory Burns and Dom Sibley were able to negotiate the first hour after the delayed start with relative comfort. But when Roston Chase was given the last over before lunch to try out his spinners, he had Burns trapped in front with his second ball. First ball after the break, Crawley nudged one round the corner and was caught by Holder. England were 29 for two, and Root was on his way out to face the hat-trick ball.
In the afternoon session, West Indies were much more accurate and Root looked understandably rusty, but he and Sibley battled through the first hour. The pair had just passed their fifty partnership when Root tried an expansive drive off Alzarri Joseph, his feet not really moving, and edged to second slip: 81 for three. The rest of the session was an attritional battle, but England got through to tea without further loss, reaching 112 for three.
The evening session continued in much the same manner, with Sibley seemingly becalmed. He gave one straightforward chance to Holder at second slip off Gabriel when on 68, but otherwise continued serenely on in his bubble. There was a second close call for a shout for LBW which was turned down by the umpire, though DRS suggested it might just have clipped the top of the stumps. By close, England had reached 207 for three in 82 overs, with Sibley on 86 from 253 balls and Stokes on 59 from 159. Had there been a crowd in at Old Trafford, they might have felt their day could have been more exciting, but there was no doubt it had been an important and successful one for England, who all too rarely manage such long and gritty partnerships. And with the West Indies attack visibly beginning to tire, there was every chance for England to dominate on Day Two.
Having declined the new ball at the end of the first day, West Indies didn’t take it until after 93 overs had been bowled, by which time the score had moved on 224 for three and England’s batsmen had got their eye in. With the new ball, there were a few more edges, but nothing that went to hand, and Stokes began to up his scoring rate. Soon it became a race to see who would reach three figures first, and Sibley just got there first for his second Test century, after 312 balls and seven and a half hours at the crease, including just four fours, and a mammoth 253 dot balls faced and 17 per cent of his runs in front of square on the off side. His solidity is exactly what England need at the top of the order, but it’s not always compelling viewing watching him bat.
By lunch, Stokes had gone to 99 and England were 264 for three. It wasn’t long after that he got there, with a reverse sweep, taking 255 balls, which was comfortably the slowest of his ten hundreds. With both men in three figures, they began to up the rate, Stokes lofting a glorious drive for six. Holder nearly had his opposite number for the third time in the series, his LBW shout turned down, but DRS suggesting it might just have clipped the top of the bails.
Finally, just before 3pm at the end of the 126th over, Sibley hoisted one from Chase high in the air towards the mid-wicket boundary but was caught for 120 off a mammoth 372 deliveries: 341 for four after a partnership of 260 from 579 deliveries. Stokes was then dropped on 157 off a tough chance in the slips. Ollie Pope didn’t last long, LBW to Chase. By tea, England were 378 for five and in complete control; with Stokes and Jos Buttler at the crease and 139 overs in the bowlers’ legs, the West Indies must have feared the worst ahead of the evening session.
What might have been was shown when Buttler hit three fours in an over, but then Stokes gave his wicket away with a reverse sweep that he edged through to Shane Dowrich off Kemar Roach, whose first wicket it was of the entire series. Stokes had made 176 off 356 balls; it was arguably his most complete innings to date, though other innings may live longer in the memory. Woakes was out first ball and Roach was suddenly on a hat trick. Buttler was caught in the deep for 40, then the Curran also fell to the reverse sweep, giving Chase his fifth wicket; he finished with figures of five for 172. A missed run out and a dropped catch enabled England to declare on 469 for nine.
England hoped to make some quick breakthroughs, with Broad looking fired up, but it was Curran who struck in his first over, trapping John Campbell in front. Joseph came out as the nightwatchman and played positively, but could have fallen had England decided to review another LBW shout. At 32 for one by the close, West Indies had it all to do to save the follow-on, which was clearly the first target for them. Sadly, the third day was a washout, the 30th time a day had been lost at Old Trafford, extending that unwanted record as England’s rainiest Test venue.
Clear blue skies welcomed the teams at the start of the fourth day, but an early drop after confusion in the slips didn’t help matters. In his first over of the day, Bess removed nightwatchman Joseph for 32 thanks to a fine catch at short square leg by Pope. Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope batted the rest of the session, taking West Indies on to 118 for two at lunch and a draw now looked the most likely outcome.
Early on in the afternoon, Hope edged behind off Curran, then Broad persuaded Root to review an LBW shout to send Brathwaite back, but the impact was umpire’s call and so the opening bat was able to continue on and reach his half-century. When Stokes came on, he bowled a barrage of short balls, but even he couldn’t make the breakthrough as the tourists closed in on avoiding the follow-on. Finally, Stokes had Brathwaite for 75, and it was 199 for four. Shamarh Brooks also made fifty and his side went in at tea on 227 for four. With the new ball only four overs away, everything depended on something special from England to avoid the game petering out into a draw.
It took Broad just eight deliveries with the new ball, and he had Brooks LBW for 68. Soon after, Blackwood was castled by one that cut back and kept low, then Dowrich was also LBW as Broad’s spell reached three for 1. Holder edged to Root off Woakes, leaving West Indies needing 10 runs while England wanted two wickets. Chase ensured they passed their first target and then completed a fifty to mark an excellent match so far. Woakes got him LBW for 51 and then cleaned up Gabriel, leaving West Indies 287 all out. For Woakes it was his 500th wicket in first-class cricket.
A lead of 182 meant England decided to open up with Stokes and Buttler to accelerate the run-rate, but Buttler dragged one on from Roach from very wide outside the off stump. It was the first time England had used four opening batsmen in a Test since 1954, and the first time in a home Test since July 1921, also at Old Trafford, when Jack Russell scored one of his five Test centuries in just ten Tests, Lancastrian Charlie Hallows made 16 not out on his debut and his county teammate Ciss Parkin ended up opening both the batting and the bowling. Crawley perished playing an extravagant shot and England closed on 37 for two, a lead of 219.
At the start of the final day, England needed quick runs to set a declaration and there was real anticipation that it could be another dramatic day. Stokes showed England’s intent, clubbing a four and a mammoth six in his first three deliveries, and reached his fifty in just 36 balls with another six (the fastest ever fifty by an England opener), having been dropped on 30. With most having suggested a lead of 280 to 290 would be enough, England declared on 129 for three, a lead of 311, with Stokes on 78 not out off 57 balls. One wondered if an extra couple of overs with the second new ball might just be necessary.
Broad continued his excellent form of the previous day taking the wicket of Campbell in his first over, the slight feather behind being missed by the umpire and, it appeared, by Buttler, but not by DRS. Woakes then trapped Brathwaite in front, and the West Indies’ key player was gone. Broad nipped one back to shatter the stumps of Hope, so by lunch it was 25 for three, with England right on top.
Soon after the break, Chase left one from Broad that also cut back, hitting him in front and that was four down. Blackwood decided to play his shots, starting at a run a ball, which wasn’t perhaps what was needed when battling to save the match. Amazingly, when Brooks gloved one, which then brushed off his arm, England decided against reviewing, having seen only the latter contact and missed the first one. Blackwood reached his second fifty of the series, before Brooks followed him to pass that landmark and then the pair took their partnership to 100 off 165 deliveries. But that was it, as Stokes’s short-ball barrage accounted for Blackwood for 55 at tea: 137 for five. What would the final session bring?
Immediately after the break, Woakes had Dowrich LBW to complete a pair and giving Woakes his 100th Test wicket. He has amazingly contrasting figures: in 20 home Tests he has taken 75 wickets at 22.90, while away in 14 Tests he has just 25 wickets at 51.68. Holder joined Brooks and you felt this was the partnership that had to do most of the batting. Curran then got Brooks LBW for 62 off 136, and England could sense victory, with 29 overs remaining.
Bess, who hadn’t had a great day, came back into the attack and was immediately hit for ten off two balls by Holder, but then found the narrowest of gaps through the gate. Stokes struck next, before Pope took a brilliant catch off Bess at short leg, parrying the shot and then diving to complete the catch. West Indies were all out for 198 with almost the whole of the final hour remaining. England had won by 113 runs, with the only slight concern coming when Stokes was unable to complete an over having picked up some sort of a niggle, which he said afterwards was down to him stiffening up. England fans will hope it was nothing more than that for their Man of the Match. With all to play for in the final Test, the Wisden Trophy is still up for grabs.