The West Indies were poor yesterday and England, specifically Cook and Root, took full advantage of this. England were on 348/3 at the start of the day and were in a prime position to kick on and post a huge total and chase personal milestones. For the West Indies, only an old-fashioned England Test collapse could really rescue any hope of winning this game.
Unfortunately for the West Indians, both teams continued in the morning session as they had played the day before. The bowling continued to be generous to the batsman, and England continued taking full advantage of that generosity. Cook and Dawid Malan batted through the whole first session adding another 101 runs before Malan edged part-time offspinner Roston Chase in the last over before Lunch. Malan’s 65 was clearly the best of England’s three new batsmen in this game, but he also did have by far the best conditions to bat in of the three so there probably won’t be a groundswell of support for him keeping his place on the back of this performance.
After Lunch, England’s lower order were faced with a completely alien situation for them: A sizeable platform built by the specialist batsmen. To put England’s 449/4 in perspective, it is their highest 4th wicket total since they played against India at the Oval in 2011. Between 2012 and 2017, it is only the second time they have posted a 400+ total for their 4th wicket. Between 2008 and 2011, in what we now must consider a golden age for England’s batting unit, they managed it 7 times.
Faced with something they hadn’t faced before, and perhaps with instructions to bat quickly and prepare for a declaration, England’s allrounders failed to do their customary trick of more than doubling England’s run total. Stokes and Ali both fell quickly to part-time spinner Chase, whilst Bairstow chopped on from Holder. Roston Chase managed to get Cook out LBW via a DRS appeal soon after, and England declared on 514/8. With Chase taking 4 wickets, there will probably be some questions about why the West Indies didn’t select a specialist spinner in their team.
Obviously our editorial policy at BOC is to slag off Alastair Cook at every possible opportunity, but even we have to concede that a score of 243 is impressive. The West Indies bowling attack might carry all the threat of a pink sparkly rubber knife, but the powers of endurance and concentration required to bat for 9 hours against any opposition must be admired. He might not be quite as good as he was earlier in his career, but England are lucky to have him and he would be sorely missed if he retired in the near future.
West Indies’ innings started poorly for the visitors, with Kraigg Brathwaite edging an Anderson outswinger to the wicketkeeper without any runs on the board. Three overs later, Kieran Powell was lucky to survive after Ben Stokes dropped what for him would be considered a regulation catch at gully from Broad. After that scare, the West Indian batsmen regrouped and managed to score 44 runs before the English weather brought the day to a premature end.
Just to remind everyone, play will start half an hour earlier tomorrow at 1.30pm (BST) due to the rain today. The West Indies will need to bat through all of tomorrow to have any hopes of saving the game, whilst England might have to rely on scoreboard pressure, funky captaincy and tight bowling to take wickets on a flat pitch with a largely unresponsive pink ball.
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