LONDON (Reuters) - Ben Stokes stole England team mate James Anderson’s show with a sizzling six-wicket haul as West Indies slumped to 123 all out before the visitors roared back on an extraordinary opening day of the series-deciding third test at Lord’s on Thursday.
With all eyes on Anderson as he edged towards his 500th test wicket it was all rounder Stokes who ripped through the West Indies either side of tea with career-best figures of six for 22 from 14.3 almost unplayable overs.
The flame-haired 26-year-old seemed to have given England a stranglehold on the winner-takes-all match but by the close of play on a murky day made for swing bowling West Indies had reduced their hosts to 46-4, still 77 runs behind.
Kemar Roach removed opening duo Mark Stoneman and Alastair Cook, both nicking behind to keeper Shane Dowrich.
Skipper Jason Holder had under-pressure batsman Tom Westley lbw and then captured the prize wicket of Joe Root for one to keep alive West Indies’ dream of a first series win in England since 1988.
England were 24-4 at that stage before Stokes and Dawid Malan saw the hosts through to the close without further loss.
“It was a difficult pitch to bat on, we would have liked to have had only one or two wickets down but overall we are happy,” Stokes, who grabbed his first five-wicket haul at the historic London ground to become only the eighth player to get his name on both Lord’s honours boards, said.
Difficult was something of an understatement as batsmen from both sides endured a torrid day, with the ball hopping around under the Lord’s lights that blazed under grey skies.
The toss was one neither West Indies skipper Holder or Root would have relished winning but Holder guessed right and felt obliged to bat first, hoping his side could reproduce the form that earned them a stunning five-wicket win at Headingley having been thrashed in the first test at Edgbaston.
After battling their way to an encouraging 78-2 with opener Kieran Powell and Headingley hero Shai Hope sharing a fluent 56-run third-wicket partnership it seemed West Indies had weathered the storm which saw Anderson reduce them to 22-2.
They lost their last eight wickets for 45 runs though with Stokes their chief tormentor.
Anderson, beginning the day needing three wickets to join spinners Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne, Anil Kumble and fellow pacemen Glenn McGrath and Courtney Walsh in the 500-club, was frustrated when Cook dropped Kraigg Brathwaite on three.
But he got his man soon enough when keeper Jonny Bairstow pouched a catch and after a 40-minute rain delay Anderson moved to 499 when Kyle Hope edged him to a diving Bairstow.
Shai Hope struck seven boundaries in his 29 before he was caught by Cook off the bowling of Toby Roland-Jones.
In the next over Stokes stooped to catch Powell’s drive off his own bowling for 39, the highest score of the day.
Jermaine Blackwood’s wild swing saw him bowled by Roland-Jones to leave West Indies on 100 for six before a fired-up Stokes polished off West Indies.
Roston Chase had no chance with a devilish ball that straightened and hit off stump and two balls later Shane Dowrich nibbled at one to give Cook another catch.
Holder had his middle stump clattered by a huge Stokes inswinger and Roach and Shannon Gabriel were lambs to the slaughter as Stokes got them in consecutive balls.
“Bowling in the warm-up this morning, the ball was swinging, so it wasn’t surprising when we saw how much the ball was doing,” Stokes said.
Soon it was England’s turn to suffer though as Roach and Gabriel steamed in with a series of 90mph deliveries.
Stoneman went in the third over, nicking a Roach delivery to Dowrich. Cook scratched around for 43 balls before edging a superb delivery to Dowrich before Westley and Root succumbed to leave the game tantalisingly poised.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis