Vital missed chances cost West Indies dearly as England resisted stoutly through unbeaten half-centuries from Dom Sibley and Ben Stokes to take honours on the day one of the pivotal Test on Thursday.
Choosing to bat first at Old Trafford after rain delayed the start by 1-½ hours, England battled to 207 for three on an attritional day under mostly overcast skies, denying the Caribbean side any major reward for their persistence.
Sibley, a dogged right-hander with little attacking intent, stroked an unbeaten 86 while Stokes, in contrast, hit an enterprising 59 not out, powering an England side needing to win the contest to level the three-match series following defeat in the Ageas Bowl Test last weekend.
Together, the pair put on 126 in an unbroken fourth wicket stand to bolster an innings on rocky ground on 81 for three when they lost the prized wicket of captain Joe Root for 23 in the first over following the first drinks break after lunch.
While West Indies’ bowlers remained largely disciplined and kept a lid on England’s scoring, they were let down by their fielding, grassing two chances off Sibley
Shamarh Brooks was the culprit on the first occasion with Sibley on 44, spilling a sharp chance at short leg in the third over before tea off part-time off-spinner Roston Chase.
Sibley’s second chance came on 68, two overs after the final drinks break when captain Jason Holder put down a straightforward catch at second slip off speedster Shannon Gabriel, in the bowler’s second spell of the session.
All told, Sibley faced 253 deliveries in over five hours at the crease and struck four boundaries while the left-handed Stokes, severe on anything loose, punched four fours and a six off 159 deliveries.
Chase has been the best West Indies bowler with two for 53, his wickets coming one delivery on either side of lunch when he removed opener Rory Burns (15) and Zak Crawley (0).
England fought their way through the one-hour opening session and appeared poised to reach lunch safely when Chase struck with the second ball of the final over before the interval, getting left-hander Burns to play down the wrong line and be adjudged plumb lbw.
And with the third ball of the over and the first after lunch, Chase prised out Crawley, Holder taking a smart low catch at leg slip to leave England 29 for two.
Sibley then took responsibility for the innings, first in a 52-run, third wicket stand with Root and then in key alliance with Stokes.
Root, who missed the first Test at Southampton due to the birth of his second child, hit two fours in a 49-ball knock before driving at a wide, full-length delivery from seamer Alzarri Joseph and edging to Holder at second slip about 55 minutes before tea.
Stokes made a quiet start to his innings but cleared the straight boundary with Chase in the last over tea taken at 112 for three.
Afterwards, the England vice-captain remained positive, taking boundaries off Chase and Gabriel before bringing up his half-century in the final hour with three runs through backward point off Joseph.
Almost unnoticed, Sibley had earlier raised his second fifty in as many innings nearly half-hour after tea, with a single to square leg off Chase.
ENGLAND 207 for three (Dom Sibley 86 not out, Ben Stokes 59 not out, Joe Root 23; Roston Chase 2-53) vs WEST INDIES.