Ben Stokes’ brilliance took a familiar spot in centre stage as England levelled their series against the West Indies with a 113-run victory late on the final day of the second Test.
Stokes produced his second sensational knock of the match, backing up his first-innings 176 with an adrenaline-fuelled 78 not out that cemented a dominant lead of 311, and picked up two important wickets as England finished their opponents off for 198.
Stuart Broad, who conjured a superb three-wicket blast with the new ball, had suggested his side could “take a risk” with their morning declaration but Stokes ensured no such gamble would be necessary.
Having been bumped up to open on Sunday evening for the first time in his professional career, he pounded 62 from 39 balls to claim the lion’s share of an 11-over onslaught that added 92 runs to the lead.
That left 85 overs to bowl the tourists out and they did it in just over 70, Broad leading from the front while Chris Woakes, Stokes, Sam Curran and Dom Bess all played their part in a strong team effort.
Bess finished things off just as the rain-affected game entered its final hour but England may yet reflect on Stokes’ dismissal of Jermaine Blackwood with the final ball of a wearying afternoon session as the turning point.
He was injured late on, pulling up mid-over but refusing to leave the field, and his availability for Friday’s series decider could yet provide further intrigue.
Stokes had been fighting fit in a one-sided first hour, ruthlessly de-fanging a high-class seam attack. Resuming alongside Joe Root on 37 for two, 219 ahead, he hit top gear almost immediately, smashing three sweetly-timed sixes over long-off and adding four fours – all despite a permanent blanket of eight boundary fielders.
The Windies made one costly drop, John Campbell allowing the ball to spill from his hands after Stokes carved Shannon Gabriel to deep extra-cover on 29, and Stokes made them pay in full.
He connected with brute force but precise placement and whenever either was a fraction off, he ran insatiably to make up for it. Root was largely content to give him the strike and was eventually run out for 22 in the attempt.
Root allowed the innings to run an over or two longer than he might have, but questions over his timing diminished when his new-ball bowlers ripped through the top three inside nine overs.
As he had done on the fourth evening Broad found the fresh Dukes to his liking, immediately slotting into a familiar groove. His fifth ball invited Campbell to drive but shaved the outside edge on its way through.
A decidedly muted appeal was waved away but Root’s reluctant review confirmed a miserable day for Campbell.
The dogged Kraigg Brathwaite represented a more important scalp and it was Woakes who claimed it, beating the batsman off the surface and pinning him clean in front for 12.
That left England well in front but Broad was not finished yet, zoning back in on the perfect line and length and making a mess of Shai Hope’s stumps. A lunch score of 25 for three completed an emphatic two hours’ work.
Roston Chase has proved a thorn in England’s side over the past fortnight but he exited meekly after the restart, raising his bat aloft as Broad jagged one into his front pad on his way to figures of three for 42.
A rout looked possible at 37 for four but Blackwood (55) and Shamarh Brooks (62) had their own plans. Together they deterred England for more than 28 overs and added exactly 100 to the total. Blackwood was the hero of day five in the first Test, scoring 95 in a chase of 200, and threw the bat with real freedom.
Brooks had a life on 17 when a sliver of bat went undetected and he began to look dangerous with a pair of sixes off the struggling Bess. The pursuit was going decidedly cold when Stokes warmed it up again, settling into a long spell of bouncers for the second time this week.
He was deep into his shift when Blackwood finally blinked in the final over before tea, flailing a catch to Jos Buttler, who scrambled well to gather.
Woakes re-entered the tale in time to make Shane Dowrich his 100th Test victim in 34 matches, completing a pair for the wicketkeeper, and when Sam Curran won the fourth lbw of the day against Brooks it seemed decisive.
Stokes had one more moment left in him before pain intervened, Alzarri Joseph chopping to point, and Bess rallied to spare England a nervy finish.
He bowled Jason Holder with his best ball of the day and closed out the match at 6.15pm, courtesy of an outstanding short-leg grab by Ollie Pope.