West Indies beat England by four wickets on the final day of the first international test since the coronavirus break on Sunday, taking a 1-0 lead at the Ageas Bowl in a three-test series thanks to a 95-run knock by Jermaine Blackwood.
England made early inroads into the West Indies batting lineup on day five as the visitors targeted 200 to win, reducing them to 27-3 before Blackwood began to set the foundations for a big win for the Caribbean side, albeit behind closed doors.
When opener John Campbell retired hurt following a toe-crushing yorker from Jofra Archer, Blackwood came in before lunch and began to anchor the innings, sharing a 73-run stand with Roston Chase (37).
“It was a nerve-wracking start after losing quick three wickets and Campbell to injury,” Windies captain Jason Holder told BBC. “But Roston and Jermaine put on a good partnership and settled the nerves. From there we could build on.
“I missed the Barmy Army but it was a level playing field without the crowds. It’s been a good start back to international cricket, it sets the series up quite nicely.”
The Barbados-born Archer, who finished with 3-45, troubled the batsmen throughout with his pace and bounce but England were unable to dismiss the danger man Blackwood.
In the end the 28-year-old Jamaican narrowly missed out on his second test century when he tried to lift a Ben Stokes delivery over the infield, only to gift James Anderson a catch.
Campbell then returned to the crease with West Indies six wickets down to join Holder, who played a patient knock of 14 off 36 balls, to guide the West Indies home in the final session.
Earlier, England were bowled out for 313 in their second innings after resuming on 284-8, with the overnight pair of Archer and Mark Wood failing to offer much resistance.
Shannon Gabriel finished with figures of 5-75 – his sixth five-wicket haul in tests – while Chase and Alzarri Joseph picked up two wickets apiece.
“Ideally we would have liked to have got more runs in the first innings,” England captain Stokes said, adding that he stood by his decision to bat first.
“We got ourselves into great positions at times with the bat to kick on and get 350 or 400, and we weren’t ruthless enough. We didn’t manage to grasp the game as we would have liked.”
The second and third tests will be held in Manchester, also without fans in attendance.