SOUTHAMPTON: Jermaine Blackwood’s fortuitous 95 in the second innings helped West Indies seal a four-wicket win over England on a gripping final day of the first Test at the Ageas Bowl on Sunday.
The West Indies, set 200 to win on the last day, were reeling at 27-3 after England fast bowler Jofra Archer’s early double strike.
The diminutive Blackwood, however, held firm until, in sight of just his second Test century, he drove England stand-in captain Ben Stokes to James Anderson at mid-off, with the visitors needing just 11 more runs to win.
But opener John Campbell, forced to retire hurt on one after being struck on the toe by Archer, returned to hit the winning runs.
The match was a personal and tactical triumph for Holder, who took a Test-best 6-42 in England’s lowly first innings 204 after Stokes, leading the side in the absence of Joe Root, won the toss and batted.
Although they hold the Wisden Trophy, the West Indies have not won a Test series in England for 32 years.
But this victory put them 1-0 up with two to play in a behind closed doors series ahead of the remaining two Tests at Old Trafford.
It was a thoroughly deserved success for the West Indies, who went ahead with their tour despite more than 44,000 deaths in Britain from the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) during the pandemic.
But it might have been a different story for England on Sunday had they not given Blackwood several reprieves.
The 28-year-old Jamaican had made just five when he edged off-spinner Dom Bess only for Stokes, moving at slip, to drop the chance.
And he had moved on to 20 when wicket-keeper Jos Buttler floored a one-handed chance down the leg-side off Stokes.
Leg-byes were signalled but Blackwood would have been out on review had Buttler held on.
England then squandered a possible run-out chance when Zak Crawley fumbled.
But with West Indies needing exactly 100 more for victory, Barbados-born quick Archer defied a docile pitch to produce a rearing 90 mph delivery that all-rounder Roston Chase, on 37, could only divert to Buttler via his glove and helmet.
It was the end of a valuable stand of 73.
Blackwood pressed on, cover-driving both Bess and Anderson, England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker, for two of his dozen boundaries in a 154-ball innings.
Archer had earlier made a useful 23 before he was last man out in England’s second innings 313.
West Indies fast bowler Shannon Gabriel took 5-75 in 21.2 overs — his sixth five-wicket haul in his 46 Tests — to finish with nine wickets for the series opener and the man-of-the-match award.
Archer then reduced West Indies to 7-2, having gone wicketless in the first innings after being selected ahead of dropped veteran Stuart Broad.
He got Kraigg Brathwaite to play on and had Shamarh Brooks lbw for a duck.
Shai Hope, whose two Test hundreds came in a win over England at Headingley three years ago, was then bowled for nine by Mark Wood.
But it was England’s loss of five wickets for just 30 runs the previous evening, a collapse sparked by Holder’s dismissal of Stokes, that proved more important at the finish.
Zak Crawley (76) and Dom Sibley (50) were the two batsmen to get half-centuries, while stand-in England captain Ben Stokes chipped in with 46.
Gabriel was straight and fast again, bowling Ollie Pope and Bess in the last hour, while Alzarri Joseph was arguably more impressive in dismissing Crawley and Jos Buttler (9) in an 11-ball span in his final spell of the day, helping to turn the tide of the match just as England threatened to get on top following a 98-run partnership between Stokes and Crawley.
Holder was responsible for Stokes’ wicket for the second time in the match as the England all-rounder miscuing a short ball to gully.
ENGLAND (1st Innings) 204 (B.A. Stokes 43; J.O. Holder 6-42, S.T. Gabriel 4-62).
WEST INDIES (1st Innings) 318 (K.C. Brathwaite 65, S.O. Dowrich 61, R.L. Chase 47; B.A. Stokes 4-49, J.M. Anderson 3-62).
ENGLAND (2nd Innings, overnight 284-8):
R.J. Burns c Campbell b Chase 42
D.P. Sibley c Dowrich b Gabriel 50
J.L. Denly c Holder b Chase 29
Z. Crawley c and b Joseph 76
B.A. Stokes c Hope b Holder 46
O.J. Pope b Gabriel 12
J.C. Buttler b Joseph 9
D.M. Bess b Gabriel 3
J.C. Archer c Dowrich b Gabriel 23
M.A. Wood c Dowrich b Gabriel 2
J.M. Anderson not out 4
EXTRAS (B-4, LB-10, NB-3) 17
TOTAL (all out, 111.2 overs) 313
FALL OF WKTS: 1-72, 2-113, 3-151, 4-249, 5-253, 6-265, 7-278, 8-279, 9-303.
BOWLING: Roach 22-8-50-0; Gabriel 21.2-4-75-5 (3nb); Holder 22-8-49-1; Chase 25-6-71-2; Joseph 18-2-45-2; Brathwaite 3-0-9-0.
WEST INDIES (2nd Innings):
K.C. Brathwaite b Archer 4
J.D. Campbell not out 8
S.D. Hope b Wood 9
S.S.J. Brooks lbw b Archer 0
R.L. Chase c Buttler b Archer 37
J. Blackwood c Anderson b Stokes 95
S.O. Dowrich c Buttler b Stokes 20
J.O. Holder not out 14
EXTRAS (LB-7, W-5, NB-1) 13
TOTAL (for six wkts, 64.2 overs) 200
FALL OF WKTS: 1-7, 2-7, 3-27, 4-100, 5-168, 6-189.
BOWLING: Anderson 15-3-42-0; Archer
17-3-45-3 (1w); Wood 12-0-36-1; Bess
10-2-31-0; Stokes 10.2-1-39-2 (1nb).
NOTE: Campbell (1) retired hurt at 6-0 and resumed at 189-6.
RESULT: West Indies won by four wickets to lead three-match series 1-0.
UMPIRES: R.A. Kettleborough (England) and R.K. Illingworth (England).
TV UMPIRE: M.A. Gough (England).
MATCH REFEREE: B.C. Broad (England).
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Shannon Gabriel.
SECOND TEST: Old Trafford, July 16-20.
THIRD TEST: Old Trafford, July 24-28.