Two days in and the third Test is already geared towards a second innings shootout. Having bowled out England for 204 on day one, West Indies responded on day two with a first effort riddled with the same lapses in judgment but, vitally, still going on 232 for eight.
The value of a 28 run lead is underlined by the fact top seven batters have so far averaged 12. And with Joshua Da Silva on 54 not out, there is scope to squeeze a few more runs and continue England’s frustrations.
After the bowlers occupying the last four batting spots provided 129 of England’s first innings, they set about the primary suits on Friday to avenge the damage West Indies had done to their top order. The hosts were in strife at 95 for six, and then 128 for seven, with Chris Woakes taking three wickets to gut the middle order. But just as it was on day one, an older ball weary legs after back-to-back Tests allowed some tail end runs.
It was Da Silva, Alzarri Joseph (28) and Kemar Roach (25*) who provided the most valuable of them all. Da Silva was the primary operator in both partnerships: adding 49 for the eighth wicket and 55 and counting for the ninth. Much like the 90 runs and 218 balls Jack Leach (41 not out) and Saqib Mahmood (49) these contributions were vital to the cause. Da Silva, with a fourth half-century, has so far been the best on show, parking his bravado at gate on the way out to the middle and not over-reaching on a deck that can be tamed with the older ball. His fifty of him came off 143 and contained just four boundaries.
Openers Kraigg Brathwaite and John Campbell got off to a solid start, bringing up 50 with ease, particularly as the latter made hay as England bowled too wide and too short, allowing the left-hander to free his arm, as is his wont. Just as thoughts turned to malignant a pitch that had flattened out after Thursday’s procession of English batters, Ben Stokes found a patch of variable bounce to scuttle one through at shin height to Brathwaite.
The West Indies skipper walked, no need to confer with Campbell regarding a review that would have only shown a predicted path into the middle of middle stump. Stokes followed him soon after, off for the second time in 17 overs to tend to his left knee. But he had shown the fellow quicks the value of pitching straighter and letting the surface do as it pleases.
The next over, Campbell wore one in the grille from Overton, then to the back of the helmet from the very next delivery he faced from the Somerset seamer, before Shamarh Brooks took one into the ribs. All down to distrust in what was in front of them and a more focused line of attack.
Then came the collapse: Mahmood trapping Brooks LBW with one hitting halfway up leg stump, and Overton getting Campbell (35) for good with a glove down the leg side on review.
Lunch came like an end of round bell, allowing West Indies to regroup on 71 for three after finishing the morning on the ropes. Nkrumah Bonner and Jermaine Blackwood emerged wary in the afternoon, pulling their punches altogether in an attempt to wait out the flurry. It didn’t work.
Bonner was the first undone by a Woakes bouncer, moving his head but not his hands, gloving through Ben Foakes. Later in the same over, Jason Holder inexplicably hooked a similar delivery off the splice for a simple catch to Jonny Bairstow coming in from deep on the leg side.
Woakes the enforcer? Who’d have thought. The third arrived in more familiar fashion, nipping into the right-handed Blackwood for an LBW that DRS showed was just clipping the top of leg stump, thus, upheld with the on-field decision. A two-fold positive after Foakes had dropped Blackwood five deliveries earlier after the batter thinned a toe-edge off Mahmood while attempting to leave.
Kyle Mayers came in willing to strike a few blows of his own, taking a bit of gloss of Woakes’ figures with a guided four through gully then a pull over square leg for six that took West Indies to 106 for six and reduced their arrears to double figures, on 98.
Mayers continued to try and set the tempo, often to the nuisance of Da Silva, who was almost run out for one when responding to a late call from the other end. But they got over the miscommunication as Da Silva held firm while Mayers played his shots from him.
The allrounder made it to a hearty 28 before chipping his opposite man Stokes into the hands of Mahmood at mid on. It was an intervention that snapped England out of their momentary lull as the movement from the fast bowlers quietened enough for Jack Leach’s introduction in the 43dr over.
Joseph took it upon himself to carry Mayers’ fire, willing to engage England’s quicks with both expansive shots and bravado as sights and sounds rounded on him. He gave as good as he got, hooking Woakes for six as 150 came into view and was soon passed, even coming down the wicket, often to defend. In the end, the manner of his dismissal of him-taking a few steps to the leg side then hoiking an under edge through to Foakes-was unedifying and unreflective of the pluck he had shown for his 59-ball stay that was only bettered by DaSilva.
The wicketkeeper batter maintained his focus, chipping away at the deficit before Kemar Roach took the glory with a slapped drive through the backward point boundary that put West Indies three ahead. But Da Silva got his plaudits from a now vocal crowd when flicking the new ball through midwicket for a forth boundary to take him to 52.
The collective 50 came off 89 deliveries but would have felt like twice as much given the time of day it arrived. When bad light came to leave the final four overs of the day unbowed, England were as willing to depart and come back tomorrow as West Indies. The latter will be looking forward to returning more on Saturday.