Ben Stokes could be forced out of England's bowling plans for the third Test against West Indies but Jofra Archer is delivering the ball "at the speed of light".

That was the verdict of captain Joe Root on Thursday as he readied the home team for the series decider at Old Trafford.

Talisman Stokes bowled 27.4 overs across two innings in the second Test, picking up three valuable wickets, as well as making 176 and 78 not out with the bat.

But England are determined to protect their star all-rounder and that may means he is selected as a specialist batsman on Friday morning.

"We'll have to be really clear on where Ben's at - he's still feeling it a little bit on his quad, so we're making sure he's fit to bowl and if not that might change how we go with things slightly," Root said.

"He pretty much spent the whole time on the field [in the second Test]. It was a long old game for him, but it does take a lot to keep him down and to take him out of the action.

"We'll see how he is in the morning and if you look at the squad of players we've got, we've got plenty of brilliant options.

"I feel like whatever combination we decide to go with will definitely be worthy of taking 20 wickets."

Quicks Jofra Archer, James Anderson and Mark Wood come back into the picture for the third Test, providing competition for Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad and Sam Curran in a 14-man squad.

Root explained Archer is raring to go and said the recent online racist abuse suffered by the Sussex paceman had been "disgusting".

Archer, who missed the second Test after breaching strict protocols on the team's bio-secure environment, said in a newspaper column he reported the racist abuse to the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Root said: "He's got his smile back. He's been bowling at the speed of light.

"It was disgusting to see some of the stuff he's had to put up with over the last week. As a squad we've tried to get round him and let him know we're all there for him.

"No-one should have to go through anything like that. There's no other word other than disgusting really."

Ben Stokes is becoming England's greatest all-rounder but must be looked after so he can reach his peak, according to James Anderson.

Stokes was influential as England squared the Test series with West Indies, scoring 254 runs with the bat while also taking two crucial wickets on a dramatic final day in Manchester.

It was his dismissal of Jermaine Blackwood just prior to the tea break that opened the door for Joe Root's side to push for victory, setting up a winner-takes-all showdown at the same venue this week.

The updated International Cricket Council player rankings have Stokes listed as the leading all-rounder in the world in the longest format, while seamer Anderson believes the 29-year-old is on course to surpass the achievements of the great Ian Botham.

England's all-time leading wicket-taker admits it is "amazing" to be in the same team as an individual who can make such a massive impact in all three facets of the game.

"It's hard to say how good he is, because it's hard to find the words. I saw Joe Root say the other day that we're in the presence of greatness and he's spot-on," Anderson said of Stokes.

"The fact that he could get into any team as a batsman, without his bowling and fielding, speaks volumes. His bowling is getting better and better each time he goes out there; he could get into a lot of bowling attacks as well.

"It's just amazing to have that talent in our team, and also to be able to watch it first-hand.

"After a week where he's pretty much done everything – chasing balls off his own bowling, batting most of the two innings that we had and getting wickets as well – it can take a toll. We've got to make sure we look after him as well, so we can keep getting the best out of him for as long as possible.

"He's certainly the best all-rounder I've ever played with - and I think he's becoming the best all-rounder that England have ever had.

"There's no reason why he cannot go on and be even better, too. With the bat, averaging in the 40s, with the ball in the 30s and then taking spectacular catches.

"It's incredible that we've got him on our team."

While Stokes starred in the second Test, Anderson was not involved. The 37-year-old was rested after featuring in the series opener in Southampton, where West Indies triumphed by four wickets.

Stuart Broad, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes were the three seamers selected at Old Trafford last week, though with Jofra Archer and Mark Wood also available, Anderson acknowledged there is a serious fight to feature in England's best XI, which he expects to take the field in the decider.

"It's healthy competition but there are going to be some disappointed guys this week, three spot up for grabs and there's six or seven guys who could fill those spaces," he said.

"It's a good position to be in, because it shows we've got strength in depth.

"But I'm sure now we're in a position where, having rested guys and those that played this week, we can now pick our best thee going into this game wanting to win it."

Archer was excluded for the previous match due to breaching bio-secure protocols. However, he has served a period of self-isolation and returned two negative coronavirus tests, clearing him for action.

England talisman Ben Stokes has replaced West Indies captain Jason Holder at the top of the ICC Test all-rounder rankings as a result of his Old Trafford heroics.

Stokes was named man of the match after another magnificent performance in Manchester, where England levelled the three-Test series with a 113-run victory on the final day.

England's vice-captain made a brilliant 176 in the first innings and cracked an unbeaten 78 from just 57 balls on day five after being promoted to open, with Joe Root's side in need of quick runs before the declaration.

Stokes also took 2-30 on Monday after picking up a wicket in the first innings.

Windies skipper Holder showed some defiance with the bat before being removed by Dom Bess as the tourists failed to secure a draw after winning the first Test in Southampton.

Holder also drops a place to third in the bowler rankings, with New Zealand seamer Neil Wagner moving up to second behind Australia quick Pat Cummins.

Stokes can seemingly do no wrong at the moment and the 29-year-old is now officially the best all-rounder in the world ahead of the series decider at Old Trafford, which starts on Friday.

He is the first England player to top the all-rounder rankings since Andrew Flintoff.

Joe Root praised Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes after the duo were influential in helping England level the Test series against West Indies.

Stokes followed up his knock of 176 in the first innings with an unbeaten 78 that allowed England to set up the opportunity to push for victory on the final day, as he added quick runs on the fifth morning.

The all-rounder then picked up two wickets - including crucially ending Jermaine Blackwood's resistance on 55 - as West Indies, chasing an unlikely 312 for victory, were bowled out for 198.

Root acknowledged match-winning contributions are becoming a common occurrence from his vice-captain, telling Sky Sports after the triumph at Old Trafford: "It doesn't surprise me.

"You watch how Ben goes about his business in practice whether it be practice, fitness or anything, he leads the way in many respects.

"He seems to want to keep getting better and better and we're seeing those results out on the field as well.

"It's great for a lot of the younger guys to see that, you've got to put the hard yards in, he certainly does that and we're starting to see that feed into the rest of the team, which is a great place to be."

Broad had boosted the home team's hopes on the final morning of the second Test with three top-order wickets, having also previously produced a devastating new-ball burst in West Indies' first innings.

The seamer was a surprise omission from England's line-up for the opening Test in Southampton - a game West Indies won by four wickets - but, asked to lead a new-look pace attack, he seized his opportunity in Manchester.

Broad had spoken publicly about his disappointment at missing out at the Rose Bowl, with Root not surprised to see him go out and back up his words on the field.

"You always expect that from Stuart. Generally, when he says something, he goes out there and produces a performance to back it up," Root said. 

"He's led the attack brilliantly this week and, as we've always said, you feel like he's got a lot of cricket left to play in him.

"Once he gets that ball in his hand, there's always that spell in him that can turn a game. He did that this week."

Stokes cut short his 15th over in West Indies' second innings due to an apparent fitness issue but insisted afterwards he was fine. The series finale starts on Friday at the same venue.

"The body just started to get quite stiff," he said to Sky Sports after being named player of the match. "I said to Broady, 'My body is starting to get quite stiff, what do you reckon?' and he just said to stop.

"I remember three or four years ago against Pakistan I had the same thing and ended up blowing my calf, so I didn't want to take that risk."

Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes rounded off magnificent individual performances to fire England to a series-levelling second Test win over West Indies by 113 runs.

The hosts, 1-0 down following the opening game of the three-match rubber in Southampton, needed quick runs in order to set a substantial target with enough time to bowl the Windies out, and star all-rounder Stokes duly obliged in a stunning assault.

When the declaration came at 129-3, Stokes – promoted to open – had bludgeoned an unbeaten 78 from 57 deliveries to stand alongside his mammoth first-innings 176.

It meant the tourists required 312 for victory, a target that soon became nominal after Broad (3-42) ripped through their top order.

Shamarh Brooks (62) and Jermaine Blackwood (55) struck stylish knocks in a 100-run stand for the fifth wicket, but the irrepressible Stokes (2-30) bounced out the latter, setting up the England attack for a relentless push towards victory after tea.

Ben Stokes vowed the England team would support Jofra Archer after the bowler's coronavirus breach saw him excluded for the second Test against West Indies.

Archer, one of the heroes of England's Cricket World Cup triumph last July, made an unauthorised trip home between the first and second Tests to see an unnamed person, breaking the protocols put in place for the games at bio-secure arenas.

England announced Archer would need to self-isolate for five days and could therefore not take his place in the XI when the second Test began at Old Trafford on Thursday.

The team's managing director Ashley Giles claimed "it could have been a disaster" that cost the England and Wales Cricket Board "tens of millions of pounds" as international cricket adjusts amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet Stokes - himself no stranger to attracting headlines away from the field following a fight in Bristol in 2017 - stressed Archer will not be hung out to dry by the squad.

"I think from us as players and as England Cricket group, this is a time where our way of operating really needs to come through," said Stokes, who was later cleared of affray following the incident in Bristol.

"We really need to be there to support Jofra right now because obviously he's a big talking point.

"Obviously he is by himself because of everything else going on at the moment but it's making sure he doesn't feel like he's by himself. The worst thing we can do right now as a team is to just sort of leave him and see him in five or six days' time and then say, 'Alright'.

"Times like these for people are very, very tough and you can feel like you are all by yourself but I don't think anybody is going to allow that to happen.

"Jofra is a massive part of this group, as everybody is. If it was anybody else bar Jofra it would be the exact same way of handling it that we would do as a team.

"It's all good being there for people when things are going well but what really comes through is how you operate with someone when they need you the most."

Stokes was once again instrumental on the second day at Old Trafford, scoring 176 - his 10th Test century - as England made 469-9 declared before having West Indies 32-1 in the 14 overs before stumps.

The all-rounder made 260 alongside opener Dom Sibley, whose patient 120 might have silenced some critics following his struggles in Southampton, where he was out for a duck but went on to make a second-innings half-century.

"It's great signs for us going forward that all the noise around him after Southampton literally hasn't affected him whatsoever," Stokes added.

"It's a great way to respond to any criticism that there was by going out and banging 100."

A mighty fourth-wicket stand by centurions Ben Stokes and Dom Sibley put England firmly in charge on day two of the second Test against West Indies at Old Trafford.

Dom Sibley and Ben Stokes made patient half-centuries to build a strong platform England on an attritional day one of the second Test against West Indies at Old Trafford.

Jos Buttler has received the backing of returning England captain Joe Root, who is confident his team-mate can transfer his white-ball batting talents to Test cricket.

Wicketkeeper Buttler averages 31.46 in the longest format but has failed to get beyond 47 in his last 12 innings, a worrying slump in form that has seen his place in the team come into question, with Ben Foakes waiting in the wings.

The right-hander made scores of 35 and nine during the first Test against West Indies last week, with his second-innings dismissal coming during a collapse that swayed the game in the touring side's favour.

England lost at Southampton by four wickets but the under-pressure Buttler is set to keep his place for the game in Manchester, which begins on Thursday.

Returning skipper Root, who missed the series opener due to the birth of his second child, has seen technical improvements in Buttler's game to suggest a big score is just around the corner.

"I think you look at Jos and the game last week - and a I know we're in a results business and we're judged on performances - but you watch how he batted in that first innings and I thought, technically, it was as well as he's played in a long time," Root told the media on the eve of the second Test.

"His game is in a really good place, it's just a matter of time until we see some of those special innings that we've seen in white-ball cricket and his performances from that transfer across.

"He's someone that is a big part of our group – has been for a long time – and is a great thinker about the game. He's a big senior player in the dressing room across all formats.

"You feel he's not far away from grabbing Test cricket, taking it and running with it. I've seen big strides off the field with his technical game, I suppose you almost want him to find that balance and mindset he has in white-ball cricket and add it to a technique that can definitely thrive in red-ball cricket."

Root was a keen spectator back home as the action unfolded in Southampton, where all-rounder Ben Stokes took charge of the team for the first time.

The Yorkshireman admits it was not easy watching on afar when fully fit, though he saw enough from his players to suggest there are positive signs for the future, despite the result.

"It was challenging, more so because you're fully fit and could be out there, it's just a very strange set of circumstances," Root said.

"Ben as captain did a brilliant job. He had some very difficult decisions to handle and manage, and I think on the ground and throughout the game he managed things very well.

"One thing that I was really pleased with, actually, is the performance for the first two and a half days we were probably behind the game, but we managed to find a way of wrestling ourselves into a position where we could win it.

"In the past, sometimes we've fallen away a bit early, but going into those last two sessions we still had a chance at winning the game.

"In a way it was a small step forwards for us, though of course we couldn't quite get across the line.

"You look at the back-end of our second innings and that really did hurt us, but I think there were a lot of positive things to take from it. You could certainly see that, sat watching from home."

England have confirmed Root will come into the XI in a place of Joe Denly, while James Anderson and Mark Wood are both rested.

Ben Stokes had no regrets over choosing to bat first or England's decision to leave out Stuart Broad after West Indies won the first Test by four wickets.

England were all out for only 204 after Stokes, leading his country for the first time in the absence of Joe Root, won the toss and asked the tourists to bowl under grey skies on Wednesday.

They made a better fist of it in the second innings, setting the tourists 200 to win when they were dismissed for 313 behind closed doors on the final day at the Rose Bowl.

West Indies were in deep trouble on 27-3, with John Campbell also back in the pavilion retired hurt after being struck on the toe in a hostile spell from Jofra Archer.

Jermaine Blackwood came to the rescue with a classy and composed 95, putting on 73 for the fourth wicket with Roston Chase (37) to set up a brilliant victory for Jason Holder's side.

Stokes said there was no point in rueing his call at the toss or wishing Broad would have been selected, and he was pleased to see the paceman state he was angry to be overlooked in a television interview.

All-rounder Stokes said: "It was a very hard-fought Test match. It's always great when games can go to day five. The level of cricket played was fantastic.

"Ideally we would have liked to have got more runs in the first innings.

"We got ourselves into great positions at times with the bat to kick on and get 350 or 400, and we weren't ruthless enough. We didn't manage to grasp the game as we would have liked.

"I stand by the decision we made to bat first. We've got to be good enough to put first-innings runs on the board."

Asked about Broad's omission, Stokes told Test Match Special: "If I was to regret that decision then it doesn't send a good message to guys who played.

"I thought Stuart's interview was absolutely brilliant, to see the emotion and desire he still has burning inside him is great to see as a senior player. And it shows he's nowhere near done."

Root is set to return as skipper when the second Test gets under way at the bio-secure bubble of Old Trafford on Thursday.

England suffered a late collapse in Southampton to close day four on 284-8 – giving them a lead of 170 over West Indies – to leave the first Test delicately poised. 

West Indies racked up a 114-run first innings lead against England to take control of the first Test at the Rose Bowl on day three.

Kraigg Brathwaite (65) and Shane Dowrich (61) led the way for the tourists, who benefitted from valuable contributions all the way down the order as they reached 318 all out on Friday.

That was in stark contrast to England's efforts as they were skittled for 204, although openers Rory Burns and Dom Sibley dug in to negotiate a tricky evening stint and reach stumps at 15-0.

Having made the most of bowling at England under leaden skies on Thursday, West Indies capitalised on the clouds parting to steadily compile a position of strength.

Denied helpful overhead conditions, the home attack were confronted by a fairly benign surface – one that meant Jofra Archer being denied an lbw verdict against Shai Hope due to overstepping was an error they could ill afford.

That moment in itself did not prove too costly as Hope was caught at slip by Ben Stokes for 16 after swiping at Dom Bess, the off-spinner who bowled tidily and also dismissed Jermaine Blackwood to claim 2-51.

But Archer would end the innings wicketless, with stand-in skipper Stokes (4-49) and James Anderson (3-62) sharing seven scalps.

Brathwaite could not turn his half-century into something more substantial, as he shuffled across to be trapped in front by Stokes, while Shamarh Brooks drove delightfully before edging Anderson behind to Jos Buttler for 39.

Roston Chase took on the anchor role – in stark contrast to Blackwood's devil-may-care efforts – and was trapped on the crease by Anderson when three shy of a richly deserved fifty.

Stokes removed opposite number Jason Holder cheaply and bowled Alzarri Joseph for a breezy 18, with Shannon Gabriel falling in similar fashion to Mark Wood.

Dowrich, who punished the England pacemen whenever they erred in line or length, was the penultimate man to fall, edging Stokes through to Buttler.

Gabriel, Holder and Kemar Roach found Burns and Sibley to be in resilient mood, although England will hope their hard yards have just begun.

 

PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF FOR BRATHWAITE

Brathwaite had not passed 50 in 21 Test innings heading into the series opener, meaning the prospect of skilled seam attack in English conditions with a Dukes ball might have filled him with dread. If it did, it certainly did not show, as he masterfully laid a platform. The 27-year-old slightly opening his stance, allowing him to access the on-side and confidently play the in-swinger, looks a shrewd adjustment.

TOIL AND LITTLE REWARD FOR ENGLAND QUICKS

Historically, this rivalry has been dominated by West Indies pacemen, so there was obvious excitement around England fielding two men capable of frequently hitting 90 miles per hour and beyond. However, Wood and Archer turned in combined figures of 1-135. The pair will surely fire in tandem at Test level soon – maybe even in the second innings here – but their struggles jarred as a brooding Stuart Broad watched on from the sidelines.

MOMENT OF THE DAY – ANDERSON HANGS ON TO REMOVE CAVALIER BLACKWOOD

West Indies day was a tale of patience and steady accumulation, very much classic Test cricket. The match situation encouraged Blackwood to try and take the action away from England, but his approach sat in hilarious contrast to his more measured team-mates. It felt like the 28-year-old played several expansive attacking shots for each of the 12 runs he ended up scoring, although Anderson's grab at mid-off to end a bizarre and entertaining interlude was as sharp as they come.

Jason Holder is eyeing a century after ticking off a five-wicket haul on English soil as West Indies piled pressure on England on day two of the opening Test.

West Indies captain Holder led by example with the ball, claiming career-best figures of 6-42 to help the visitors bowl out England for 204 before tea in Southampton on Thursday.

Shannon Gabriel weighed in with 4-62 but it was the Holder show at the Rose Bowl, where the Windies reached 57-1 at stumps – trailing England by 147 runs.

Holder's figures were the best for a West Indies captain in England and he has now taken at least five wickets in an innings in six of his past 10 Tests.

The Windies paceman revelled in his performance as he set his sights on another feat with the bat, saying: "My Test match is far from over.

"I've still got a massive contribution to make with the bat, and that's where my focus is going to be channelled now in this innings.

"One of the things I've always strived to do… was to score a hundred in England and to take a five-wicket haul here. I've ticked one box so far, so I guess it's now left for me to knuckle down and try to get a hundred."

After dismissing Zak Crawley (10) and Ollie Pope (12) before lunch on the second day, Holder then claimed the prized scalp of captain Ben Stokes (43).

Stokes and Jos Buttler (35) looked as though they might get on top of the Windies after England were reeling at 87-5, but Holder broke the threatening partnership in the middle session.

"It was a big wicket to get," Holder said. "Stokesy was looking quite set. We put down two chances and he was looking to make us pay for them. When I came on, his partnership with Jos was starting to blossom, and it was important to break that partnership quickly and not let it materialise into something that could really hurt us.

"I just wanted to be really consistent to him. He was pretty settled and countering the line that we were bowling by walking across and walking down. I was getting just enough movement there to keep him at bay, and I wanted to keep him playing."

England will have their work cut out on day three as Kraigg Brathwaite (20 not out) and Shai Hope (3 not out) return to the crease, with John Campbell (28) the only wicket to fall prior to stumps.

"They've done really well today and showed us the way to go," England paceman Mark Wood said. "We were in a similar position in the first innings and now we've got a chance to make it right like they did."

Wood added: "We haven't had the best day so plenty to do. I'd prefer a few in the wickets column rather than the pace column.

"They bowled well and got to give them credit, but 204 wasn't on the radar, we'd have liked 250 or 300. We didn't get it right with the ball, they got their line and length spot on. It's a bit of cobwebs and rust."

Jason Holder led by example with the ball as West Indies seized control of the first Test against England in Southampton.

England are in "capable hands" with Ben Stokes in charge, according to West Indies captain Jason Holder, as the top two all-rounders prepare to lead their respective teams at the Rose Bowl.

With Test skipper Joe Root not playing for family reasons, Stokes will get his first taste of international captaincy when England begin their three-Test series against West Indies on Wednesday.

Holder, in contrast, is vastly experienced in the job. The 28-year-old is also number one in the ICC Test all-rounder rankings, sitting just above his opposite number ahead of the return of international cricket amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The individual battle between the two skippers will be an interesting subplot to proceedings, particularly as Stokes will now have to deal with added responsibilities as he fills in for the absent Root.

"England are in capable hands [with Stokes]," Holder told the media ahead of the series opener in Southampton. "He's an excellent cricketer and a great competitor. I'm sure the guys in their dressing room will look up to him.

"He'll have experienced campaigners in his dressing room to help him along, I'm sure. I wish him all the best in this one game as captain."

Both teams boast strong seam-bowling depth, suggesting it will be a tough series for batsmen.

Like England, West Indies have often leaned heavily on the lower order for runs but Holder - who averages 32.72 in the format - is not concerned over who contributes for his team, so long as they post a competitive total.

"It doesn't have to only come from the top order. We're putting a lot of emphasis on the top order," he said.

Yes, they haven't probably lived up to the expectations, but in general it's still a team sport. We've just got to put runs on the board. However we get them, personally, I don't care.  

"It's just a matter of us putting runs on the board and giving our bowlers something to work with."

Holder confirmed West Indies would leave it until the morning of the game to decide on their final XI. The tourists have travelled with a larger squad to work in bio-secure conditions, though the unique situation has afforded opportunities for some on the fringes to impress.

"We've got a few young fast bowlers on tour. Obviously the circumstances have led to us bringing a much bigger touring party and that has given us the luxury to work with some young promising fast bowlers," Holder said.

"I must say I've been very impressed with all of them. They look very, very fit and healthy. There is obviously a lot of room for improvement, but having them here they have been open to learning. A lot of them have grasped so many things over the past couple of weeks.

"The practice session we had yesterday was one of the best practice sessions I've seen in my time playing cricket. It was very, very lively. The fast bowlers really ran in and challenged our batters.

"That really says a lot about the future for these young guys if they can stay fit and healthy, stay on track and work hard, we will have a really good cohort of fast bowlers."

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