Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes added an undefeated 124-run stand for the fifth wicket to rescue England from a tricky position of 107-4 off almost 50 overs in the third and final Test against the West Indies in St Lucia.
England’s previous scores in the series have been 77, 246, 187 and 132, so when they lost skipper Joe Root for 15 off a pedestrian 54 balls (S/R 27.77), there would have been fears of another batting collapse. England had dug deep from the start after being sent in to bat by stand-in West Indies skipper Kraigg Brathwaite, and the visitors were clearly desperate to earn a morale-boosting victory in the third Test (or at least avoid defeat), with Keaton Jennings (8 off 43 balls, S/R 18.60) and Rory Burns (29 off 103 balls, S/R 28.15) crawling to 30 runs off the first 16 overs.
The first ball of the 17th over saw Jennings steer a delivery from Keemo Paul (brought in to replace the suspended skipper Jason Holder) tamely to the slips on his recall to the Test side after being dropped for the second Test.
Joe Denly added 20 runs off 50 balls (S/R 40.00) and Root and Buttler put on 38 runs for the fourth wicket before Stokes joined Buttler in a crucial stand that is the highest England have put together in the three-Test series to date.
England’s innings had seen three slow partnerships all in the 30s, as well as a runless third-wicket stand between Joe Denly and Joe Root, before Buttler and Stokes combined to 124 runs off 214 balls to bat England into a relatively strong position and ensure that they should far surpass their highest innings total in the series.
Stokes was a late inclusion in England’s line-up following a bruised heel suffered during the second Test defeat, but the left-hander batted without any visible signs of pain in an innings-saving partnership between two talented batsmen who have both failed to live up to their full potential in Test cricket.
Buttler averages 36.21 (one century, 13 half-centuries) in Tests and Stokes 33.55 (six centuries, 17 half-centuries), but both have failed to deliver big knocks after plenty of decent starts over the last two years. The pair will be looking to convert their undefeated 60s at St Lucia into big individual centuries in the hope of finally putting the West Indies under serious pressure in the Test series.
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