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Stokes burns brightly but England have work to do

 

By David Clough

Ben Stokes returned with a vengeance to his best bowling form as his career-best six-wicket Test haul overshadowed even James Anderson against West Indies at Lord's.

A capacity crowd at HQ gathered to will Anderson on to a piece of history as the first Englishman to reach 500 Test wickets - and after he took the first two in the West Indies' 123 all out, it seemed a certainty he would achieve the unique milestone on day one of this deciding third Test in the Investec series.

Instead, though, it was Stokes who cashed in on his and bowling coach Ottis Gibson's hard work to become the sixth England cricketer to put himself on the famous honours board here in both disciplines - leaving Anderson on 499.

Stokes' six for 22, in a wonderful two-hour spell of fast swing bowling from the nursery end, came in 14.3 overs unbroken either side of tea as the Windies - who play Ireland in an ODI at Stormont on Wednesday - lost their last seven for 45 runs.

England then closed on a vulnerable 46 for four themselves, with Stokes unbeaten on 13, in conditions which ensured throughout that ball mastered bat under heavy cloud cover.

Asked if this was perhaps the best he has ever bowled in Test cricket, he said: "Yes, I think so.

"It was obviously swinging when I got the ball in my hands - and when it does swing like that it's a good opportunity just to run up and know it's going to do something."

Captain Joe Root did not interrupt Stokes' marathon spell - although at one point Anderson did think he might be about to get the nod to try his luck again.

"Rooty let me bowl for a long time, which I quite enjoy doing," Stokes added. "Jimmy and I were a bit confused at one point because he came to take his stuff off but I already had my hat and jumper off - and Joe just said 'Oh, keep going'. Then after that, he just told me 'Keep going after the break as well'."

Stokes added: "I hope it's a starting point and I can start producing some better performances with the ball. I was letting the team down a little bit.

"But to go out there and bowl the way I did today was a monkey off my back."

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