|Third Test, St George’s, Grenada (day two):|
|England 204 Mahmood 49, Leach 41*; Seales 3-40, Mayers 2-13|
|West Indies 232-8 Da Silva 54*; Woakes 3-48|
|West Indies lead by 28 runs|
West Indies edged into the ascendency in the third Test against England by opening a slim first-innings lead in Grenada.
Lower-order resistance saw West Indies end on 232-8, leading by 28, despite being 128-7 at one stage.
Similar to day one when a last-wicket stand of 90 rescued England, wicketkeeper Joshua da Silva frustrated the bowlers late in the day with 54 not out, putting on 49 for the eighth wicket with Alzarri Joseph and 55 unbeaten with number 10 Kemar Roach.
England made a disappointing start with the new ball but took 6-45 in an impressive recovery either side of lunch.
After West Indies reached 50-0, Ben Stokes had Kraigg Brathwaite lbw with a ball that kept low while Chris Woakes took 3-48 – his best figures in an overseas Test since December 2017.
That put the tourists on course for a lead of their own but as batting became easier in the final session, wicket-taking again looked difficult.
However, on a pitch showing signs of uneven bounce against the harder ball, both sides will still believe they can win what is likely to be a low-scoring game.
A victory for either team would see them take the series with the score currently 0-0 after two drawn Tests.
A Test in the balance
Any advantage West Indies gain from further building their first-innings lead is countered by the fact they will almost certainly have to bat last on a pitch on which it will be tough to chase.
But the work by Da Silva late on – he even survived six overs against the new ball with Roach and now has the highest score of the Test – nudged the day into the hosts’ favour.
Overall, it had an uncanny resemblance to the one previous. Like Jack Leach and Saqib Mahmood did 24 hours earlier, Da Silva capitalised on a surface which seems to die once the ball goes soft.
England must cling to the difficulty West Indies’ top order had earlier in the day.
Their seamers, once they finally found their line, utilised uneven bounce rather than the lavish seam movement which resulted in the tourists’ batting collapse on day one.
West Indies also helped with some poor shots – Jason Holder was caught top-edging his third ball to deep square leg and Kyle Mayers chipped Ben Stokes tamely to extra cover for 28.
The pitch and both sides’ batting shortcomings mean a series which has largely been drab may end with an exciting finale.
England’s mixed day with the ball
England’s bowling effort swung from below-par to encouraging before ultimately ending with nagging disappointment.
Their inability to remove the lower order, albeit on a slow pitch, again laid bare the lack of cutting edge of this attack.
Given England had only made 204 with the bat, the start was also particularly underwhelming. Early wickets were needed but instead new-ball pair Chris Woakes and Overton bowled too many deliveries that could be left alone.
Not for the first time, Stokes was the bowler to create an opening – although Brathwaite could do little with his delivery.
From there England turned to the ploy of bowling a heavy, mid-pitch length and they improved significantly.
Overton does not have express pace but he twice hit opener John Campbell on the helmet before having him caught down the leg side.
West Indies’ top order found the short balls difficult to play given the uneven bounce, Nkrumah Bonner also gloving a Woakes short ball behind for four when trying to duck.
However, when England stuck with the short-ball plan late on, tiredness in the bowlers’ legs and life leaving the pitch allowed Da Silva to lap the ball into the leg side with relative ease.
Saqib Mahmood was arguably England’s best bowler in his second Test but his only reward in a probing 18 overs was the wicket of Shamarh Brooks, lbw at the start of the West Indies collapse.
Woakes’ rare overseas wickets
Woakes’ performance was almost England’s as a whole in a microcosm.
He was particularly culpable in the opening overs when 12 of his first 18 balls were left alone. The new-ball spell with Overton was one of the most innocuous from an England attack in recent memory.
However, a three-wicket spell after lunch put England on top in the game. The wickets of Bonner and Holder were followed by Jermaine Blackwood being trapped lbw by a ball that nipped back in what felt like an important spell for Woakes’ Test career.
His struggles overseas have been much talked about – he had 33 wickets at 54.42 before this Test – but his figures are now his best overseas since the 2017-18 Ashes in Australia.
But the shine was taken from Woakes’ day by England’s inability to take the final two wickets.
The 33-year-old was wayward in three overs with the second new ball when England needed him to wrap up the tail.
‘A decent effort’ – reaction
England all-rounder Chris Woakes: “We’d have liked to have bowled a little bit better this morning. In the first hour we’d have liked to have got the ball a little bit fuller. But when the wicket has shown there are little bits in it, we’ve bowled well and to get them eight down I think is a decent effort.”
West Indies wicketkeeper Joshua da Silva: “It is pretty flat right now so we are just trying to get as much as we can. There is the odd one that stays low. It is definitely a new-ball wicket. The old ball is a lot easier to play.”
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