West Indies lose flurry of soft wickets to hand England advantage on day two
England’s bowlers laboured early on before a flurry of soft wickets on the second afternoon stalled the West Indies’ response to the tourists’ 311 all out.
From a strong base of 83 without loss, the hosts slipped to 127 for four at tea as their top order produced a string of sloppy shots.
Having failed to make 300 in 10 attempts during the Ashes, and three before that, Joe Root’s England finally got there thanks to the continued efforts of centurion Jonny Bairstow.
Having celebrated his eighth Test hundred the previous night he was last man out for 140 as England lost their last four men for 43 runs in the morning session, 31 of which came off the Yorkshireman’s bat.
West Indies make progress
But the real intrigue of the day centred around how their attack would perform in the absence of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, dropped for this trip in a highly divisive act of forward planning.
First impressions were underwhelming, with Chris Woakes and Craig Overton proving an insipid new ball proposition.
While England were reduced to 48 for four at the start of their innings, West Indies openers Kraigg Brathwaite and John Campbell raced away to a stand of 83 in just under 20 overs.
Woakes was unable to offer control, throwing down far too many boundary balls, while Overton was struggling to shake off the understudy tag. Even when England mixed things up with the extra pace of Mark Wood and Jack Leach’s left-arm spin, things were drifting.
It took a lucky break to get them on the board, Overton spearing a wayward bouncer down the leg-side but brushing John Campbell’s glove as he attempted to capitalise.
Brathwaite, known as one of Test cricket’s most obdurate blockers, was filling his boots at the other end. He reeled off a dashing 62-ball half-century, his quickest ever, with seven fours and one pinged six off Leach.
The more England fed him length balls to drive, the more he obliged. He steered his side’s score into three figures but fell for 55 a few moments later when he followed a wide one from Wood and sliced it straight into Overton’s mid-riff at gully.
Stokes in the wickets
Ben Stokes was next to take advantage of some careless decision-making, though the sight of him bending his back through a six-over spell was a surprise given England’s suggestion that he would be eased back in to bowling duties following a side strain.
He twice had Brooks in trouble before finally winning the duel, with the number three aiming for a stylish cover drive but producing a healthy edge to Root at first slip. The West Indies continued to undermine their strong start when Jermaine Blackwood, dropped on nought when Ben Foakes grassed a tough one-hander, fell to the last ball of the session.
Playing Woakes off the back foot, he was caught by Overton after a tiny flick off the bat cannoned off his thigh pad and into Overton’s safe hands. It was a much-needed boost for Woakes, who had been costly and inconsistent, and kept the momentum with the visiting team.
The Windies had earlier finished England off efficiently, 20-year-old Trinidadian Jayden Seales dismissing Woakes and Overton in his first over of the day to finish with figures of four for 79.
Bairstow had a couple of scares before he finally got England over the 300 mark, with Alzarri Joseph eventually accounting for both him and Wood before the total spiralled much further.
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