In the lead up to this game, the momentum (if you believe in such things) had clearly swung decisively towards the West Indies. The Caribbean team were resurgent, inevitably heading towards a series win in England for the first time in 29 years. England were broken and reeling, both mediocre and at a low ebb. Most of the talk seemed to be about Anderson needing 3 wickets to reach 500 in his Test career. The day before, England captain Joe Root announced that Toby Roland Jones would replace an unfit Chris Woakes whilst the West Indies unsurprisingly named an unchanged side.
The morning began with the West Indies claiming the initial advantage by winning the toss. This summer, the team which won the toss has also gone on to win the game in 5 out of 6 opportunities. The only exception was the previous game, where good batting conditions and a sub-par first innings England batting performance conspired to allow the West Indies back into the game.
If it was meant to be a massive advantage to the West Indies, it certainly didn’t seem like one. The constant threat of rain and swinging conditions left the batsmen struggling to survive through most of the day. Cook dropped a slip chance early on, which might be the start of a worrying pattern for England if you consider his two drops at Headingley. Brathwaite and Kyle Hope both edged deliveries from Jimmy Anderson to the wicketkeeper either side of a rain break in the morning session, taking Anderson to the tantalising career total of 499 wickets.
After Lunch, the West Indies regrouped somewhat with Kieran Powell and Shai Hope sharing a partnership of 56 runs, until Shai Hope edged one from Toby Roland-Jones. What followed this dismissal was a remarkable display of bowling from Ben Stokes, or quite possibly a terrible display of batting from the remaining West Indies batsmen. From 78-3, they lost 7 wickets for a total of 45 runs. Stokes meanwhile claimed his best ever figures of 6-22.
Stokes’ first of the day was a sharp return catch from Kieran Powell, which removed the set batsmen from the middle. He also managed to bowl Chase with a beautiful delivery and induced an edge from Dowrich before Tea gave the visiting batsmen a brief respite. But unfortunately for the tourists, Stokes picked up where he left off after the break. Holder and Gabriel were both bowled by deliveries which hooped in from wide outside their off stumps, whilst Roach edged a good ball to Anderson. The innings ended with the West Indies standing on 123 all out, and England rampant.
Whilst in some ways the pressure was off England with such a small total to overcome, the conditions still favoured the bowlers and at least three batsmen were playing for their place. Stoneman didn’t do his case any good, edging a short and wide delivery from Kemar Roach after only scoring 1 run. Roach managed to get Cook the same way a few overs later, albeit from a much better delivery that Stoneman’s. Westley missed a straight ball from Holder and ended up being given out LBW, although Hawkeye suggested is was barely going to clip the stumps.
Root followed soon after with a dismissal bearing some similarity to Stoneman’s, edging a short and wide ball to the wicketkeeper. It was an unnecessary shot in the situation, his departure leaving England on the precipice at 24/4. Stokes and Malan managed to bat out the next five overs, at which point the umpires called it a day due to bad light.
So the day ends with the game still very much in the balance. What seemed like a catastrophic decision to bat first by the West Indies might turn out to be a tactical masterstroke. Stokes’ 6-22 lowered his career Test bowling average significantly, where he’s getting closer to the point of justifying his selection as a bowler alone. Stoneman and Westley both hurt their chances of playing in the Ashes this winter, but Malan has a great opportunity on his home ground to impress the selectors. Given both team’s fragility and moments of brilliance in this series, it would be a brave man to predict what will happen tomorrow.
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