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NORTH SOUND, ANTIGUA: West Indies survived a collapse either side of the tea interval to play out a draw on the final day of the first Test against England at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua on Saturday.
Set an unlikely victory target of 286, and having lost four wickets for nine runs to be stumbling at 67 for four at the start of the last session, first innings century-maker Nkrumah Bonner and former captain Jason Holder defied the visitors for more than two hours in an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 80 off 35 overs to see the home side to safety at 147 for four.
Bonner’s unbeaten 38, following on from his nine-hour-plus 123 in the first innings, earned him the man of the match award.
Holder finished on 37 not out in another important contribution from the all-rounder against the English.
“Obviously we wanted to win but we’re happy to come away with the draw,” said Bonner.
“I always wanted to play Test cricket and over the years I set out to bat long. I’m versatile. I adapt to the situation.”
Following Joe Root’s second innings declaration at 349 for six in the morning session, left-arm spinner Jack Leach claimed three wickets in quick succession after Ben Stokes made the breakthrough by removing West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite.
Without the services of their fastest bowler, Mark Wood, due to an elbow injury, the tourists were further frustrated for 25 overs by Brathwaite and John Campbell, who put on 59.
However, Stokes was brought into the attack as the fifth bowler and responded by trapping Brathwaite leg-before for 33.
Leach, who shared the new ball with Chris Woakes, then drew Campbell into another false shot and Craig Overton took the catch over his head at mid-on for the left-hander to depart on 22.
On the stroke of tea, Leach struck again as Shamarh Brooks once more failed to impress with Zak Crawley taking the catch low at slip and when Jermaine Blackwood played a poor shot to be plumb lbw to the specialist spinner shortly after the resumption, England sensed victory was within their reach.
“I’m really proud of the team today. Throughout the game we got better and better,” was Root’s assessment.
“We have to assess Mark (Wood) and see if he’s up for the next Test in Barbados. It’s not his fault. You can’t help getting injuries.”
Having ushered Crawley to his second Test century late on a rain-shortened fourth day, Root duly completed his 24th hundred in Tests at the start of Saturday, but not before he lost Crawley for 121, a well-targeted yorker from Holder separating the pair after a 201-run second-wicket partnership.
Crawley’s innings of over five hours occupied 216 deliveries in which he struck 16 fours.
In contrast, Root’s composed effort, which ended when he was bowled by Alzarri Joseph for 109, featured only six boundaries as the skipper faced 204 balls in spending just over five-and-a-half hours in the middle.
With an extra half-hour at the start of the day due to the frequent stoppages for rain on day four, England made clear their intention to declare with a limited-over style attitude which resulted in 132 runs being added for the loss of five wickets at the rate of a run-a-ball.
Dan Lawrence, who came in at the early fall of Crawley, belted 37 off 36 balls with four fours and the lone six of the innings, dominating a 70-run third-wicket stand with his captain before he became the first of three wickets in quick succession for Joseph, who also accounted for wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Foakes.
Kemar Roach, the lone West Indies wicket-taker the previous day when England reached 217 for one, added to his tally when he dismissed Stokes as the rush for runs continued.
“It was hard-fought all five days and I am happy that we had some fight right to the end,” said a relieved Brathwaite.
“In the middle (of our batting) though we need to find ways to be tighter. The pitch was good for batting but it might be a bit different in Barbados.”
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