Paul Collingwood praised Ben Stokes’ “warrior” spirit after he stepped into the breach following Mark Wood’s injury in England’s first Test against the West Indies.
Wood was suffering from pain in his right elbow and sent down five overs on the third morning in Antigua before admitting defeat.
He spent the rest of the day under the watchful eye of medical staff, but England sorely missed him on the field, where they watched Nkrumah Bonner’s marathon century push the hosts into a 62-run lead on 373 for nine.
It was a day of slow grind at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, with just 171 runs scored in three sessions and five wickets falling.
If Wood is not fit to resume duties in the second innings that would seriously compromise the prospects of a side who are already without one first-choice bowler in Ollie Robinson.
The picture would have been even more troubling for England had Stokes not shouldered a heavy burden, sending down 28 overs for figures of two for 42.
Just a few days ago he was not expected to play any part with the ball, with a cautious recovery plan from his recent side strain. But, with his side up against it, he dug deep, taking more than his share of the load to become the standout bowler on show.
“None of us were expecting that many overs out of him. Obviously we had to be pretty cautious with the approach, but, Ben being Ben, he wants to be in the competition.
“When you lose overs from somewhere else, he’ll want to make overs up. He’s a battler. His attitude has been absolutely superb and he’s shown today what kind of a warrior he is. That’s what sort of character he is. He wants to put his body on the line all the time.”
England must be careful not add Stokes to their injury list by leaning too heavily on him, but he can expect to get through another heavy shift before the game is done, with Collingwood offering precious little optimism around Wood.
“All I know at this moment is it’s soreness in the elbow. He didn’t feel that confident this morning and then he got it strapped up and bowled a good spell for us. When he tried another over it didn’t feel good.
“We’ll get the anti-inflammatories into him overnight, get him iced up and see how he is.”
While the scarcity of chances created was a clear cause of concern, particularly against a resistant tail, Collingwood went out of his way to praise his team for their commitment on a jaded pitch.
“I thought today was probably one of the best efforts I’ve seen in an England shirt in Test cricket,” he said.
“The attitude in the field was exceptional. It was tough, hard work out there. It’s a placid pitch, a docile pitch.”
Bonner was the key man for the West Indies, knuckling down for more than nine hours and absorbing 355 deliveries on his way to 123.
The Jamaican has been a late bloomer at Test level but showed all the dedication required to continue flourishing as he made sure not to miss out on a century.
“It was very emotional to get runs against England, it’s a good feeling,” he said.