Stokes double blow checks bright West Indies start

Bridgetown (Barbados) (AFP) –


Ben Stokes struck two important blows as England pegged back West Indies' progress with the home team at 132 for three when rain forced an early tea on the opening day of the first Test of the three-match series at Kensington Oval in Barbados on Wednesday.

Stokes removed obdurate opener Kraigg Brathwaite and the experienced Darren Bravo within a matter of minutes just before the showers swept across the ground to raise the visitors' spirits after they were frustrated by a 73-run second-wicket partnership between Brathwaite and Shai Hope.

Brathwaite's patient innings of 40 ended when he followed a delivery from the seam bowling all-rounder to give a straightforward catch to England captain Joe Root.

Bravo, playing his first Test in more than two years following a social media spat with Cricket West Indies president Dave Cameron, failed to make any impression as he was trapped lbw by a full-length delivery from Stokes for two.

Hope, who has again impressed in compiling an unbeaten 42 by the interval, will resume in the final session of the day alongside Roston Chase.

Debutant opener John Campbell had impressed at the start of the day with a stroke-filled innings of 44 off 53 balls with eight fours before becoming the only wicket to fall in the morning after home captain Jason Holder won the toss and chose to bat first.

England dropped a selectorial bombshell before the start of play in omitting senior seamer Stuart Broad, a veteran of 134 Tests with 433 wickets to his name, in preference for a second specialist spinner in Adil Rashid, given the expectation of greater assistance for the slow bowlers than had been initially expected in the lead-in to the match.

Sam Curran shared the new ball with James Anderson but while Anderson was the usual model of accuracy and economy, neither could effect the breakthrough with Campbell starting brightly in taking two boundaries to third man in the first over he faced from Curran.

However his aggressive intent eventually got the better of him when Moeen Ali came into the attack. Clearly intent on beating the off-spinner off his line, Campbell swept two boundaries immediately but fell palpably leg-before in Ali?s second over when the left-hander missed another attempted sweep to end an opening partnership of 53.

Brathwaite, usually a phlegmatic occupier of the crease, followed Campbell's lead in attacking Ali by hoisting a rare six ? just his tenth in 54 Tests ? over wide long-on.

In contrast to their opponents, West Indies have gone into the match with four frontline seamers as lanky pacer Alzarri Joseph, whose last Test was against England in Birmingham 17 months earlier, makes a return to the team with left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican omitted.

England are on a five-match winning streak while the West Indies have lost their last four Tests, in India and Bangladesh, all inside three days.