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Match reports

West Indies v England, 2014-15

Wisden's review of the first Test, West Indies v England, 2014-15

Chris Stocks
15-Apr-2016
Jason Holder quietly celebrated a magnificent maiden Test, and first-class, century, West Indies v England, 1st Test, North Sound, 5th day, April 17, 2015

Jason Holder quietly celebrates a magnificent maiden Test, and first-class, century that helped West Indies draw the Test  •  Getty Images

At North Sound, Antigua, April 13-17, 2015. Drawn. Toss: West Indies.
Anderson's pair of two-wicket hauls would normally have been a footnote to a nailbiting draw which pleased West Indies more than England. But they took him - in his 100th Test, and with his family in attendance - to 384 overall, one more than Ian Botham's national record. And they offered some consolation for England's failure to finish off the game.
The record fell at 3.52 on the final afternoon when Ramdin, the West Indies captain, fended to a diving Cook, his England counterpart, at first slip. Anderson's guttural roar as he ran, arms outstretched, to his team-mates was a release of the pressure that had built up as England prepared for their first Test in eight months since defeating India at The Oval.
There was a more immediate context, too. Ramdin's dismissal broke a seventh-wicket partnership of 105 with Holder, and gave England renewed hope of victory. With three wickets needed in 18.4 overs, that was plausible, even on a benign pitch that offered the seamers little. But Holder was in no mood to acquiesce. In only his fourth Test, he scored a magnificent, belligerent maiden hundred to earn his team a draw that had looked beyond them when they started their second innings the previous afternoon, chasing 438 - or, more realistically, needing to bat 130 overs. That England fell short, extending their winless record on Antigua's two grounds to nine matches - including the Test abandoned six years previously after ten balls because of a sandlogged outfield - was not only down to Holder's skill or the unhelpful surface. The bowlers were also culpable, failing to strike when West Indies were most vulnerable.
Broad, Jordan and Stokes could manage only two for 159 between them and, despite a tidy first-innings performance, Tredwell - playing his second Test, more than five years after his debut, in Mirpur - was unable to exploit the turn on offer on the final day. Root's part-time off-breaks offered the greater threat. Yet, with just 35 deliveries remaining, Tredwell almost benefited when Holder, on 87, drove the ball into Ballance's ankle at silly point; it deflected towards Tredwell, but dropped tantalisingly short.
Much water had flowed under various bridges since The Oval. Any goodwill had evaporated during a painful winter of one-day cricket, culminating in England's group-stage exit at the World Cup. Peter Moores, the head coach, found himself under intense scrutiny, which increased when Paul Downton, who had appointed him a year earlier, was sacked as ECB managing director back in London during the second of England's warm-up matches. Neither the low-grade opposition nor the political upheaval was ideal preparation for the Tests.
So it was no surprise when England made a sluggish start, collapsing to 34 for three inside 17 overs after being inserted. Trott was back, but as an opener, rather than at his accustomed No. 3 - Cook's fifth partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss in 2012. But he was out to the fifth delivery of the match, edging a probing outswinger from Taylor to first slip. Cook had troubles of his own: sacked as England's one-day captain in December, he was without a Test hundred since May 2013. His barren run continued when he allowed a delivery from Roach to sneak between bat and pad.
Ballance, who averaged 60 in his first year of Test cricket, had endured a tough World Cup, and spent 77 minutes accumulating ten runs before a tentative prod at Holder flew to slip. Those breakthroughs were just rewards for the West Indians, who swung the ball far more than their England counterparts. It was also the perfect start for new coach Phil Simmons, in his first match in charge after eight years with Ireland.
Yet early local optimism, buoyed by a public holiday that encouraged a large turnout, was punctured by a 177-run fourth-wicket partnership between Bell and the lively Root. Bell then put on 130 with Stokes, revelling in the responsibility of the No. 6 slot in the absence of the injured Moeen Ali. Bell finished with 143 - his first overseas hundred since December 2012 at Nagpur, and his 22nd in all Tests, drawing him level with Wally Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoff Boycott. He departed in the penultimate over of the day to Roach, edging the second new ball, but this was one of the most satisfying innings of his career: it was in Antigua, six years earlier, where he had been dropped, following the 51-all-out defeat in Jamaica. His was the first of five wickets to fall for 20 - four of them on the second morning - and England needed a last-ditch stand of 38 between Jordan and Anderson to reach 399.
Wickets for Anderson bookended the West Indian reply, which was dominated by a maiden century for Jermaine Blackwood, a 23-year-old Jamaican playing only his sixth Test. He rode his luck: on the second evening, Stokes had him caught in the slips off a no-ball on 21; on the third morning, it was Stokes again who had him dropped in the gully by Tredwell on 43. Having arrived with West Indies in trouble at 99 for four, Blackwood was never short on courage. He drove his second ball, from Tredwell, for six, and took 40 runs off the luckless Stokes alone. By the end of an innings in which the next-best score was Chanderpaul's 46, Blackwood was unbeaten on 112. England led by 104.
They stumbled at the start of their second innings, but wrested back control thanks to a fine century - his fourth in nine Tests - from a revitalised Ballance. The skittish Trott fell for four when he was caught behind wandering up the pitch to Taylor, who then exposed Cook's frailties outside off stump. When Bell was carelessly run out, England were 52 for three, and in danger of wasting their advantage. But Ballance added 114 with Root, who made an impressive half-century before being bowled by Holder, and restored calm to an innings that concluded with an inventive 47-ball half-century from Buttler. It allowed Cook to declare with 40 overs of the fourth day remaining.
England bargained for more than two wickets before stumps, especially after Broad had Brathwaite fending a bouncer to short leg in the second over. Yet the late dismissal of Darren Bravo - Jordan taking a sensational slip catch off Root - kept them in the ascendancy. Two more wickets in the first hour next morning raised their hopes: Tredwell had Devon Smith caught at mid-on, and Anderson extracted a hint of reverse to find Samuels's edge and draw level with Botham. By lunch, Root had added the prized scalp of Chanderpaul to reduce West Indies to 155 for five.
A rush of blood from Blackwood, edging Jordan after a reckless charge an over before the second new ball was available, brought Holder to the crease. England needed four wickets in 51 overs, but he was unperturbed. First he joined forces with Ramdin to eat up 32 of them. Then, after Anderson had removed Ramdin, Roach helped Holder blunt England for a further 18. By the time Holder reached his century in the penultimate over, lofting Tredwell over long-off for four, West Indies had done enough to clinch a deserved draw. Only once before, when they made 408 for five in 164.3 overs against England during a timeless Test in Jamaica in April 1930, had they batted longer to save a game. More importantly, Holder had helped restore some cheer to the Caribbean game.
Man of the Match: J. O. Holder.