West Indies tour: Zak Crawley and Joe Root put England on firmer footing
Zak Crawley and Joe Root put England on a firmer footing on day four of the first Test against the West Indies, sharing unbeaten half-centuries to move their side into the lead in Antigua.
England began their second innings 64 runs behind after finally bowling out the hosts for 375, leaving their fragile top order with work to do.
Having slumped to 48 for four on the first morning at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, a repeat performance would have been calamitous. But although debutant opener Alex Lees completed a disappointing start to his international career with a second cheap dismissal, twin half-centuries from Crawley and Root steered the tourists away from danger.
West Indies made to toil
At tea they had moved the score to 146 for one, with Crawley 79 not out and Root following with an unbeaten 55.
After toiling away for 157.3 overs to bowl out the Windies, England’s serene progress did little to remove the suspicion that this was a tired track ready to serve up a draw. In the absence of any dramatic deterioration, forcing a positive result on day five may require something out of the ordinary.
England resumed needing one West Indian wicket after a draining day in the field and were relieved to see Jack Leach nip out Jayden Seales lbw with the third ball of the morning.
It was a deserved second success for Leach, who sent down 43.3 overs and 20 maidens on an unhelpful surface.
That brought England’s openers back to the crease, looking to make amends after a pair of single-figure dismissals on day one.
Kemar Roach made a game attempt to unsettle both in the first over, teasing Lees’ outside edge as he swished with flat feet and winning an lbw decision against Crawley with a hooping inswinger. DRS came to the latter’s aid, and rightly so, with the ball visibly snaking down leg, but it was a warning shot.
The pair successfully battled through 10 overs, Crawley timing a couple nicely off his toes to get his eye in, before Lees came unstuck with the score on 26.
With Roach attacking from round the wicket, he was struck in front, unwisely taking a referral with him without consulting his partner.
Scores of four and six add up to an uncomfortable first appearance at this level, but – with no spare openers on tour – he has further opportunities ahead.
Crawley quickly settled as the early swing evaporated, scoring with the kind of freedom that the West Indies were unable to find.
A couple of balls after being struck by one that jagged back from Jason Holder, he mustered a fine reply, standing tall and pulling him through mid-wicket.
He also located his cover drive and, when Veerasammy Permaul’s spin arrived, he slapped a boundary through point and lapped another over his shoulder.
Root removed the last of the arrears with a thick edge to third man and by lunch England had a narrow eight-run lead.
Crawley had a careless moment when he slashed with leaden feet at Alzarri Joseph on 49, but was raising his bat after a break for rain. It took him exactly 100 deliveries to get there, with Root following off 108 balls as they played a risk-free game of accumulation.
There was already a hint of lethargy from the home bowlers, with the speeds sagging sufficiently for Josh Da Silva to stand up to Roach.
The West Indies thought a moment of good fortune had fallen their way when they sensed Crawley had edged Permaul into his boot on 71, but replays suggested the ball was grounded before ending up in the slip’s hand.
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