England on brink of humiliation after unraveling against West Indies

England are staring down the barrel of yet another humiliation, reeling as they are in the third and final Test of this West Indies series. They are 10 runs ahead, but with just two second innings wickets remaining.

They began it a third of the way through day three, 93 behind after finally bowling out West Indies for 297. But collapses of four for 39, then four for 21 leaves them returning on day four with their tails well and truly between their legs on 103 for eight. Barring some great about-turn, one that would have to exceed the 104 they managed for the final two wickets in their first innings, they will wear a 12th defeat in their last 17 matches, a period that includes just one win and poses yet more questions of the captaincy of Joe Root.

But for all there is to malign from an English perspective, Grenada was bouncing to the glory of a rampant West Indies who, led by a first five-wicket haul for Kyle Mayers, are on the cusp of winning the inaugural Richards-Botham trophy. They are also set to maintain their record of losing just one series to England at home in the last 50 years.

Mayers has room to add to his absurd figures of five for nine from 13 overs. For all his effervescence from him as a cricketer, he is simply a medium pacer of which there are a tell me a dozen in County Cricket. And yet here he is, making mugs of the country’s supposed brightest and best batters.

If Mayers owned the afternoon, the morning belonged to Joshua Da Silva. A maiden century in his 14th Test, and some handy red ink for that clean 100 was no less than he deserved for a knock of defiance that gave his side that lead of 93. He arrived to the crease at 95 for six and held firm to ensure day two ended on 232 for eight.

Reconvening on Saturday with Kemar Roach, that lead of 28 was not going to add to itself. And it had only moved to 41 by the time Saqib Mahmood, the most threatening of England’s attack, got Roach (25) to glove down the leg side. But in Jayden Seals, he had a number 11 willing to do as the other tailenders had done in this match and hold firm. The pair stuck together for 25.3 overs, for 52 runs, 13 from Seals which included a four and a towering straight six off Jack Leach.

There was fortune along the way: Da Silva overturning an LBW on 65 thanks to an inside edge, then Seals (on nought) surviving a leg before appeal from Mahmood that should have been out but couldn’t be sent upstairs as England had burned all three of their reviews on Friday. That would have closed the host’s innings for a lead of 41.

Kyle Mayers took five wickets as England collapsed

(AFP via Getty Images)

As Joe Root resorted to chasing Seals’ wicket, Da Silva made hay when the fields came in to keep him on strike. He waited for those shots mind, willingly seeing out six maidens with Seals before ending the run with a swept four off Leach. A carve through extra cover off his 254th ball moved him off his previous best of 92 and onto 96. A straighter bunt off the very next ball took him to three figures, celebrated with a scream and then doubling over as the emotion rushed out of his body via his lungs.

It seemed he was 100 and out when Craig Overton nipped a ball through bat and pad, taken brilliant by Foakes diving full-length to his left. A review on a whim found no edge at all, by which point Da Silva had already left the field. His return from him would not last long as Seals ‘bunt back to Root in the very next over meant there was no extra cost.

As listless as England were with the ball, the pitch had flattened out and there was scope for the top order to make amends after collapsing to 67 for seven on day before before being danced out by their tail to make it to 204.

You’ve been watching long enough to know that didn’t come to pass. Zak Crawley boomed a drive on the up to Jason Holder at second slip. Root nicked off to Mayers for the second time in the match, before the allrounder got on a roll and bowled Dan Lawrence three-quarters of the way up off stump as the batter attempt a leave, then went around the wicket to have Ben Stokes caught behind by Shamarh Brooks, who had taken the gloves while Da Silva had some busted digits tended to (he returned for the evening session). All while Alex Lees watched on in horror at the other end, as he did in the first innings.

Joshua Da Silva’s century frustrated England in the morning

(Getty Images)

By tea, on 43 for four, England still trailed by 50, circling the drain as they had done so many times this winter. Lees and Jonny Bairstow began to climb back up against the swirl. The 41 runs coming in just as handy as the 24.4 overs given how these Dukes balls have quietened around the 40-over mark.

Then came another collapse, arguably the most embarrassing of the lot. Having spent most of the last two days chirping Da Silva for not playing many attacking shots, it took one return of serve for Bairstow to heave out of the blue and under edge Alzarri Joseph through to Da Silva.

Ben Foakes provided the comedy run out, setting off for a second run he was never going to make. Four leg byes via Chris Woakes’ thigh pad put England into the lead, but they only moved to four ahead when Lees was finally undone for 31 from 123 as Mayers snuck a back of a length delivery under his bat to take out his off stump.

Mayers’ fifth was the easiest of the lot, hanging a delivery wide for Overton to fend a Holder at gully, who took three attempts to take a simple catch.

The mercy of an early close of play saved England from further embarrassment. Nevertheless, as Da Silva and Mayers walked off to great acclaim, the shame of the tourists felt that little bit louder.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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