|Second test, Barbados (day four):|
|England 507-9 December & 40-0: Crowley 21*, Liz 18*|
|West Indies 411: Brathwaite 160, Blackwood 102; Lich 3-118|
|England lead by 136 runs|
England gave themselves a slim chance of beating the West Indies in the second Test in Barbados, taking a 136 lead on the final day.
After finally being abandoned by the West Indies for 411, England first team players Alex Lees and Zach Crowley went 40-0 at the close after playing 15 overs.
Tourists will be looking for fast runs in the morning session before announcing and trying to eliminate their opponents in the time left to win.
But England’s struggle to finish West Indies’ first innings, which lasted 187.5 overs, shows the difficulties they will face.
West Indies captain Craig Brathwaite turned his 109 11-hour 160s of 489 balls overnight before finally being eliminated by Jack Leach.
On a pompous field that makes scoring and taking wickets difficult, the English bowlers toiled hard until they took the West Indies’ 10th wicket in the evening session.
The first series in Antigua was drawn, so if this test ends with the same result, the series will be 0-0 ahead of the final match in Grenada starting on Thursday.
Another exhausting day of bowling
The theme of this series is slow, hard-to-watch cricket.
Again, without the help of the surface and not without effort, England struggled to create open spaces. Even if they manage to get into position to announce that they will have to play better than their first try to stand a chance of winning.
Their hard work began early on on Day 4, when Alzarri’s night watchman Joseph went through 20 overs before escaping Ben Stokes with 19 of 75 balls.
The rattling of gates would have put tourists in a much better position, but it didn’t look like it had been going on all day while the West Indies dug in. Before lunch there was a period of one run of 51 balls, and the English bowlers offered very little.
Jason Holder went halfway just after lunch, giving Saqib Mahmoud his first test wicket, but then Joshua da Silva blunted the bowling with 33 of 112 bowls.
Left spinner Leach hit 69.5 overs per marathon inning, the most by an English bowler since Phil Tufnell against New Zealand in 1992. His three wickets were a disappointing return to the fourth day’s field.
The number of overs Leach made and the inefficiency of the seamers also cast doubt on England’s choice, with Lancashire capless Matt Parkinson being an unused member of the team.
However, you can’t escape the fact that this is a poor Test cricket field, like the first one in Antigua.
Brathwaite goes long
Brathwaite’s knock, which began on the second day, was an impressive example of perseverance and patience.
In the pre-lunch period, he stopped and Brathwaite faced 30 straight point balls. Only West Indian legend Brian Lara, who did it twice, batted more than Brathwaite’s 710 minutes in a Test innings.
It took a fine ball from Leach that hit the middle and stump and hit the top to fire him. For England, such supplies were too few.
West Indies’ effort was admirable, but the fact that they were batting slowly at 2.18 per over meant they were still at a significant deficit when they were finally sacked.
The hosts played quite neatly at the end of the day, so England could not quickly begin to build up their lead.
The Crowleys were given a pound for two at Kemar Roach’s bowling alley, but overturned the decision on reconsideration because the ball lacked a leg stump due to technology.
“We will try to make something out of this game” – reaction
England bowler Saqib Mahmoud: “It was a tough game. The gate did not give much. The boys kept their discipline. From time to time you get a ball that stays down or pops up, but then for 10 overs you don’t see it again.
“We will definitely try to hack them again tomorrow and try to make something out of this game.”
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “England will need to hit a little longer than Antigua. [when they set West Indies 286 in 71 overs]therefore, there are fewer overs in the West Indies, but there are more opportunities for spinners in this field than in the first Test.
“English bowlers, not least Jack Leach, will get tired, but the last day could be interesting.”