England ease to innings victory after late Maharaj stand

By Sports Desk January 20, 2020

England eased to a first innings win away from home in more than nine years after dismissing a stubborn South Africa tail on the final morning of the third Test.

The tourists' opening spell was not as devastating as the Sunday burst that saw the final four first-innings wickets fall for just a single run, but victory was never in doubt, a 2-1 series lead secured in dominant fashion.

Starting on 102-6 - still 188 runs behind - Stuart Broad got Vernon Philander (13) with the third ball of the day, before Kagiso Rabada followed after a brief show of resilience.

Dom Bess removed Anrich Nortje for five, and although Keshav Maharaj disrupted England's rhythm with a slew of boundaries, ending on 71, a 99-run stand for the 10th wicket concluded with his run-out.

South Africa eventually succumbed by an innings and 53 runs, with the January 2011 defeat of Australia in Sydney the last time England triumphed away from home without needing to bat a second time.

Any Proteas hope of frustrating England early in the day were initially tempered as Philander's inside edge popped up off his pad for a stretching Ollie Pope to take his sixth catch of the match at short midwicket.

Rabada, suspended for the fourth Test, looked to depart the series in style, quickly moving to 16 off 24 balls. But his exit to Mark Wood was a feeble chip to Broad at mid-on with less than half an hour played.

Bess, who claimed 5-51 in the first innings, then took his first wicket of the second with a quicker delivery through Nortje into middle and off, while Joe Root's (4-87) bid for a first career five-for continued against South Africa's final pairing.

Maharaj and Dane Paterson (39 not out) improbably provided the Proteas' most prolific partnership of the innings by far, the former having some fun with consecutive sixes in a Root over that brought 28 runs - tying the record in the longest format.

A second Test fifty soon arrived for Maharaj, who showed no signs of slowing, a maiden century moving into view.

But he could not quite get there with the final wicket summing up the South Africa display, Maharaj well short of his crease with Sam Curran firing in a direct hit from mid-on.

The fourth Test in Johannesburg starts on January 24.

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    The Windies won a close opening contest by four wickets, with a crucial 95 from Jermaine Blackwood helping the tourists get over the line on day five.

    Broad, who has 485 Test wickets and impressed in South Africa at the end of last year, was left out of the line-up in Southampton by stand-in captain Ben Stokes.

    Stokes also elected to bat first in overcast conditions, a move that came under scrutiny after England managed just 204 in their first innings.

    West Indies captain Holder thought Broad would have played instead of either Jofra Archer or Mark Wood and was happy when Stokes opted to bat after winning the toss.

    "This is a proud moment for us," Holder said in a column for the Daily Mail. "We really wanted to start this Test series well and to begin the way we have by winning the first Test is perfect. 

    "Looking back at the game, it was my preference to bowl first so I didn't mind England deciding to bat and then our bowlers simply bowled their hearts out on a pretty flat pitch. 

    "I was a little surprised England didn't pick Stuart Broad. 

    "His record, particularly in this country, is outstanding and I thought they would leave out either Jofra Archer or Mark Wood. But they put out a high quality attack, that's for sure.

    "As it went on it became close to the complete West Indian performance. There's no doubt the game changer was that fourth afternoon when we took five wickets after tea.

    "Then we were able to finish it off on the last day. It's been a while since we had Shannon Gabriel on the park due to injury so to see him back firing on all cylinders was brilliant. 

    "We were always confident we would get 200 to win but losing three quick wickets and John Campbell to injury wasn't ideal. 

    "But the partnership between Jermaine Blackwood and Roston Chase was just what we wanted and it was really good to see Jermaine going as deep as he did. 

    "This was a career-reviving innings for Jermaine. He's a very exciting player and he grabbed this opportunity with both hands."

    The second Test at Old Trafford, for which Joe Root will return as the hosts' captain following the birth of his second child, starts on Thursday, with West Indies knowing they will retain the Wisden Trophy if they avoid defeat.

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  • How Holder's increasing influence is getting the West Indies back to winning ways How Holder's increasing influence is getting the West Indies back to winning ways

    I have to admit that when Jason Holder was appointed captain of the West Indies Test team in September 2015, I was sceptical. At 23, having made his Test debut just over a year earlier, in June 2014, he was so young – the second youngest Test captain for the West Indies, and too inexperienced to be leading a side that had picked up a terrible habit of losing Test matches and losing them badly.

    Between 2011 and 2016, the West Indies played 52 Tests in 20 series. They won only 13 of those matches, lost 27 and managed 12 draws. Those victories saw five series wins and 13 losses. Things were grim and in my opinion, was too much for a youngster who while talented, was still learning the game.

    However, over the ensuing five years, many things have changed. In Holder’s first 11 Tests as captain, the West Indies lost eight and drew three of them. In his last 22 including Sunday’s win against England, Holder’s team has won 11 Test matches, lost nine and drawn two.

    This latest win pulls him ahead of Brian Lara and into a tie with Richie Richardson as West Indies captains with the most Test wins. Only Clive Lloyd with 36 wins in 74 Tests and Sir Vivian Richards with 27 wins in 50 Tests have more. Richardson’s 11 wins came in 24 matches.

    During that time the soft-spoken captain has seen his stocks rise. In July 2014, Holder was 91st in the ICC Test rankings, a year later he had risen to 45 in the rankings. By July 2017, he had climbed to 36 in the rankings and ninth in 2019.

    As of today, Holder is the number-two ranked Test bowler in the world.

    His batting has also had a significant impact on the fortunes of the side he leads.

    Holder scored his maiden Test century against England in April 2015 and since then scored two more centuries and eight fifties averaging a healthy 32.49, considering how low he bats. This fact, along with his improved bowling has seen him become the number one Test all-rounder in the world.

    With Holder in the team, the West Indies bowling attack averages a wicket every 32.79 runs. Without him, they take a wicket for every 40.38 runs scored. His impact with the bat is also significant. With him in the team, the West Indies scored an average of 26.34 runs for every wicket they lose. Without him, that number drops to 19.35.

    In essence, without Holder, the West Indies bowling team concedes 75.9 more runs per inning while making 69.9 fewer runs per inning. What this math is telling you is that the West Indies are 145 runs worse off when he does not play, especially since he was given the captaincy.

    This statistic takes on even greater significance when you consider that since January 1, 2017, the West Indies have won 80 per cent of Test matches (8 of 10 played) in which they have restricted the opposing team to a first-innings score of fewer than 250 runs.

    During that same period, the West Indies have won 69 per cent of Test matches or 9 of 13 when they score 250 runs or more in their first innings.

    The Test match that concluded on Sunday supports these figures as Holder’s match-changing 6 for 42 restricted England to 204. The West Indies replied with 318 even though Holder’s contribution with the bat was just five runs, it was his bowling that put the West Indies in a position of strength on Day 2, a position they did not relinquish for the duration of the match.

    Without him, things can be much different. Since he was appointed, Holder has missed five Tests. The West Indies lost all five.

    In August 2017, when England clobbered the West Indies by an innings and 209 runs at Edgbaston, the already beleaguered captain was under even greater pressure to relinquish the captaincy to someone with more experience; someone who the very fickle Caribbean public would find more tolerable.

    It was a particularly difficult time for the young Barbadian.

    “It’s not easy. We haven’t had the best results over the last few years but I enjoy it,” he said in an interview then revealing the steel that lies beneath the much softer façade the world sees.

    “I don’t shy away from it and I don’t think I’d ever give it up. There might be a situation where people want to move on from me but I can’t control that.

    “The one thing I can control is trying to get the best out of each and every individual in the dressing room and I try my best to do that. One thing I’ve said to myself is that when I leave here just leave some kind of mark on it. So far, the guys have been quite receptive and helped me out tremendously. It is a young group; we’re trying to learn as fast as we possibly can under the circumstances we’re faced with.”

    It’s instructive that since then Holder has led the West Indies in five more Tests against England. He has won four.

    The evidence is there, the West Indies are better with Holder in the team and at its helm. And, as he continues to improve in all areas, I suspect his impact on the team will be even greater.

    For years, West Indies fans have been divided over when the team will finally turn that never-ending corner and return to winning ways, or at the very least, winning more consistently. What I do know for certain, is that with Holder leading this team, that corner might be finally be turned sooner rather than later.

    *Statistics provided by Zaheer Clarke.

     

     

     

     

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