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. (More Cricket News)
Brought together with the hosts tottering 81-3, opener Sibley and all-rounder Stokes watchfully added 126 by the close on Thursday and their weighty alliance was eventually worth 260.
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Sibley was caught at deep midwicket by Kemar Roach off Roston Chase – whose 5-172 partially spared a beleaguered Windies seam attack – to depart for a steady 120 that featured few other moments of similar ambition.
The wisdom of England's scoring rate might only be known when Saturday's mixed Manchester weather forecast plays out, but Stokes was imperious for his 176 within 469-9 declared and Sam Curran's successful review to have John Campbell lbw for 12 left the tourists 32-1 at the close.
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Attrition was the order of the morning, with Sibley particularly unflappable in his refusal to chase three figures, scoring a mere 15 from 63 deliveries in the session and bringing up a second Test ton in the third over before lunch.
100 - Dom Sibley's 312-ball century at Old Trafford is the slowest by an @englandcricket batsman since December 2000 (Atherton v Pakistan, 317 balls). Endurance.#ENGvWI pic.twitter.com/zZXtpSmqF5— OptaJim (@OptaJim) July 17, 2020
Stokes was forced to break on 99 after bolting 40 on to his overnight score and he raised his bat after reverse-sweeping Chase to the fence.
The off-spinning all-rounder had a considerable workload as Alzarri Joseph pulled up injured during his 24th over and Shannon Gabriel toiled through 26 sets of six without rewards.
Chase trapped Ollie Pope (7) lbw after removing Sibley and Curran (17), who blasted a handsome straight six, top-edged a sweep to become his fifth victim and the last England batsman out.
WATCH: Stokes Hits Outrageous Six Over Long On
The tireless Kemar Roach (2-58) had seen off Stokes and Chris Woakes, the latter for a duck, with consecutive balls, while Jos Buttler fell to Windies captain Jason Holder (1-70) – his 40 from 79 deliveries slightly underwhelming given the match situation.
Dom Bess' breezy unbeaten 31 lifted England past 450 and had Curran sent another leg before appeal against nightwatchman Joseph upstairs from the penultimate ball of the day, West Indies would have gone in two down.
Dour Dom is Sibley the best for Silverwood
Sibley's carefully compiled knock was unquestionably a phenomenal feat of concentration as he spent 372 balls at the crease. A strike rate of 32.25 meant he rarely set pulses racing.
However, having a solid presence like Sibley at the top of the order is something coach Chris Silverwood has demanded, marking a clear departure from the more cavalier approach against the red ball under Trevor Bayliss. It appears to be paying dividends, as England have recorded 400 in the first innings in three of their past four Tests, having managed it only once in the previous 26.
356 - Ben Stokes faced 356 balls in his knock for @englandcricket , 119 more than he's logged in any other Test innings. Tempo. #ENGvWI pic.twitter.com/DC0ns1ICQB— OptaJim (@OptaJim) July 17, 2020
Stokes stands apart
An absurdly good-check drive for six over long-on off Joseph marked another sparkling addition to Stokes' career showreel. But his 356 balls faced – 119 more than any other innings in his Test career – underlined how he is now a batsman at home in any situation, able to play at whatever tempo is required. No one has more than Stokes' four centuries in Tests since the start of last year. As Joe Root continues to work to try and iron out technical kinks, Stokes is England's best batsman as well as their best all-rounder.
Roach ends his long wait
When Roach put himself on a hat-trick by having the great Virat Kohli caught behind in Kingston last September, he probably did not think a wicket drought was imminent. A gruelling wait was over when Stokes tickled one through to Shane Dowrich. Woakes was caught in the gully next ball. Two in two, 10-and-a-half months with none, two in two – Roach will hope the pattern stops repeating right there.