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West Indies beats England as international cricket returns

SOUTHAMPTON, England (AP) — The West Indies won the first international cricket match since the sport went into global shutdown for the coronavirus pandemic, beating England late on the fifth and final day of a thrilling first test.

Jermaine Blackwood top-scored with 95 as West Indies overcame an early wobble to win by four wickets in the last session on Sunday. John Campbell hit the winning run to finish his interrupted innings on 8 not out as the West Indies reached 200-6, taking an early lead in the three-test series. He was hugged by captain Jason Holder, who finished unbeaten on 14.

A tense final session started with West Indies on 143-4, still 57 runs from the victory target. “It’s a massive win — it’s a massive, massive win. This is one of the best performances, one of the best victories, we’ve had as a group in test cricket," Holder said. “To start the series this well is very, very promising for us and we feel very proud the way we performed."

Fast bowler Shannon Gabriel celebrated his return from injury with a player-of-the-match winning performance, taking nine wickets for the match including 5-75 in England's second innings. It was an emotional win for a West Indies squad which took the gamble on traveling despite the COVID-19 pandemic and had to spend 14 days in quarantine at Manchester after arriving in England on June 9.

Blackwood and Roston Chase had revived West Indies's run chase earlier Sunday with a 73-run partnership which ended when Chase was caught behind for 37 against hostile pace from Barbados-born Jofra Archer. Before the pair came together, West Indies was 27-3.

Blackwood and Shane Dowrich shared a 68-run stand for the fifth wicket before stand-in England captain Ben Stokes had Dowrich caught behind for 20. Stokes also claimed Blackwood’s wicket, when the West Indies were still 11 runs from victory.

“We got ourselves into some great positions at times with the bat and unfortunately we just weren’t ruthless enough to really go on and make our batting innings count,” Stokes told Sky Sports. Archer ended with 3-45. His two early wickets gave West Indies problems in a seemingly straightforward chase after he removed Kraigg Brathwaite (4) and Shamarh Brooks (0), and Mark Wood bowled Shai Hope for 9.

West Indies had the added problem of opener Campbell retiring hurt after being hit on the toe with a yorker from Archer. The West Indies team said Campbell would come out to bat again if needed — and he was needed.

Archer made the breakthrough in the sixth over when Brathwaite played on. Archer had Brooks lbw in his next over and the victory target didn’t seem so easy anymore. Hope played two cover drives for four to ease the early pressure but Wood came into the attack and knocked out Hope’s off stump as he tried to hit another and England had the upper hand.

Blackwood’s half-century settled the West Indies in the second session. He hit a total of 12 fours and was aided by Chase. Chase was caught behind off a mean bouncer but the West Indies fightback was in full flow and that was the only wicket to fall in the second session.

Archer earlier made 23 with the bat as England was bowled out for 313 in its second innings after resuming the day on 284-8. Pace bowler Shannon Gabriel finished with 5-75 for the West Indies after collecting the two wickets on Sunday morning that wrapped up the England innings. Gabriel claimed 4-62 in the first innings for a nine-wicket match haul.

England scored 204 in its first innings and West Indies replied with 318. Stokes did not regret leaving out bowler Stuart Broad, who had played the previous 51 home tests. “If I was to regret that, I don’t think that sends the right message to the other guys I picked,” Stokes said.

The second test starts Thursday in Manchester.

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