At the end of a pulsating day of Test cricket, the hopes for both England and West Indies lay on their captains. It is fair to say that the West Indies took the honours for the second consecutive day even as the host do not look so much behind. But one has to agree that the tourists set the template for Ben Stokes’ men how to play in their backyard, primarily through some defiant batting performances.
There was little doubt of the forecast being murky as it was for the previous two days. Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite survived nervous spells from James Anderson and Mark Wood the first hour of the day. The second over in the day from Anderson saw England burn their first review against Brathwaite as it flicked the back leg.
Stokes blooded Dom Bess for the first time in the game but kept the pace intact from the other end in the form of Jofra Archer. In Bess’ third over, West Indies passed their 100, but at this point, Archer was doing little to justify his selection over Stuart Broad. He trapped Hope right on the front and umpire did not hesitate once before raising his finger. However, the Barbadian had marginally overstepped.
However, the off-spinner avenged Archer in the very next over by firing a loopy full delivery that Stokes grabbed at first slip effortlessly to give England the first breakthrough of the day. It arrived at the 35th over while two overs later Brathwaite brought his first half-century since July 2018. New man Sharmah Brooks started brightly, finding the fence thrice in the next two overs, two of which came against Bess.
Stokes began with a maiden over, which was his first of the day and bounced back from three boundaries in his second to show the exit door to Brathwaite. Stokes also got his maiden success through DRS as the fine margins worked in England’s favour while Brathwaite challenged it. Brooks and Roston Chase survived through to lunch as Holder’s men found themselves only 55 runs behind.
Stokes brought his most threatening bowlers Anderson and Bess to bowl in tandem. And seven overs into it, the 152-Test veteran made Brooks tease a line outside off-stump that nicked on the way through. While there existed clear sound, the tourists lost their review and a set batsman for 39. Jermaine Blackwood’s looked confident on the crease until on his 22nd ball; he holed off to mid-off, failing to get enough elevation, giving Bess his second scalp.
Shane Dowrich and Jason Holder sew a match-defining partnership:
Enter Shane Dowrich and West Indies stitch a potentially match-turning partnership. Dowrich began aggressively against the spinner while Chase held the fort from the other end. At the 68th over, with five down, the tourists took the lead and the pair defied the odds to, threading nearly a century stand. And the English bowlers might have started to feel the absence of saliva.
In the 76th over, Bess missed a tough chance that came off Dowrich’s bat that the bowler had to move to the right to pouch it quickly. And just like that England’s ploy of deploying pace for a genuine swing bowler started backfiring with only Anderson, Bess and Stokes being amongst the wickets. It seemed like after tea, England’s problems would increase manifold and it did.
Anderson’s first over after tea was dispatched to the boundary by the keeper-batsman. Three overs later, Chase found his rhythm against Archer too, carting him for consecutive fours. And England looked as flat as Steve Smith made single-handedly made them look on certain occasions in the 2019 Ashes. It had to be the golden arm of Anderson that put the brakes on a match-defining stand of 81. England challenged the on-field decision of Richard Illingworth that looked plumb via hawkeye.
Ben Stokes revives England’s chances:
And similar to Headingley 2019, too much reliance on Stokes did pay off as he snatched Holder’s wicket through a short ball that Archer grabbed it smartly at fine leg. At the other end, Dowrich was perhaps crafting a career-defining knock while West Indies still needed the distance to put the home side under pressure.
Four overs after Jason Holder returned to the pavilion, Alzarri Joseph took the long walk after a cameo of 18 from 12 balls. Stokes worked his magic again to remove the stubborn Dowrich for 61 with an ordinary delivery to snap his fourth.
The West Indian lower-order could not show as much resistance as Englishmen as Wood got the wicket of Gabriel by knocking off the middle stump. The Caribbeans had an opportunity to make England sense some nervous ten overs with a lead of 114 in the bag.
Unlike the first innings, Dom Sibley used good judgement on his leave while both him and Rory Burns did experience nervous moments with the sun smiling on them for the first time in the game. They made it through the ten testing over to trail by 99 more. And yes, it goes without saying that the hopes of day four lie on how the respective captains respond to the adversities.