Jason Holder’s magnificent double hundred and a supporting century from Shane Dowrich left England humbled for the second day in a row and battling to avoid a big defeat in the first West Indies Test.
Just 24 hours after being skittled for 77 in Barbados, England toiled grimly away in a joyless, wicketless slog that lasted almost five hours and left a notional winning target of 628.
Windies skipper Holder was imperious for his 202 not out, hitting 23 fours and eight sixes as he relentlessly punished a listless visiting attack and proved himself an impostor in the lowly position of number eight.
Only two players in the history of the game have ever scored more from that station, Wasim Akram and Imtiaz Ahmed, while his 295 stand alongside the composed Dowrich (116no) was the third largest the game has ever seen for the seventh wicket.
The 6ft 7in all-rounder’s beaming celebrations when he reached 200 by flogging part-time seamer Keaton Jennings into the leg-side immediately segued into a declaration, which left England 20 overs to bat before stumps.
Jennings and Rory Burns safely negotiated that unenviable task to reach 56 for nought but with two full days ahead their efforts, while worthy, represented only the tip of the iceberg.
In the short term all focus will be trained batting for six full sessions, but beyond that there are questions over the make-up of the team going forward and the condition of James Anderson and Ben Stokes.
The pair have sent down almost 100 overs between them in Bridgetown and looked weary, overworked and under-rested as they trudged off in Holder and Dowrich’s slipstream.
They had hoped for better as they stepped out on the third morning, 339 behind but with ambitions of claiming the last four wickets swiftly enough to begin embarking on an already difficult chase.
Instead the Windies moved their score from 127 for six to 415 without further loss. They added 110 in the first session, 112 in the second and 66 more in the evening before the mercy of the declaration.
England’s first hint of the trouble to come came when an 11-over blast from Anderson and Stokes, easily their most threatening duo, drew a blank. When Joe Root changed it up, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran and Adil Rashid were treated with varying levels of disdain as Holder began establishing himself at the primary aggressor.
At lunch the prospective target was already 449, comfortably in world record territory, while Holder had passed England’s paltry first-innings total on his own.
Holder raced to his third Test hundred in just 99 balls, accelerating with a pair of sixes off the struggling Rashid, celebrating with the expressiveness of a man who did not yet know there was another to come.
Root at one stage resorted to flinging the ball at leg stump from round the wicket as England’s enthusiasm for the contest waned, a state of affairs not helped by Holder surviving a pair of half-chances on 127 and 151. Burns and Ben Foakes made game attempts a two very tough chances but came up short.
Anderson took hold of the second new ball with more resignation than relish and it fared little better than the old one. Dowrich slowed as he approached his hundred but brought up the 200 partnership in style as he drove Anderson down the ground showing the full face of his bat.
A punch through point off Moeen finally allowed him to take the spotlight from Holder for a moment in honour of his third century at this level but it soon returned to the skipper.
The sight of Jennings’ part-time medium pace must have been a welcome one as he faced up on 198 and one swing of the arms later he was walking off to rich and deserved acclaim.
This is redemption on the grand scale, says former England spinner.
The Somerset spinner impressed in South Africa over the winter.
The captain promoted himself to open the batting but made just two off 15 balls
Curran experienced sickness and diarrhoea during Wednesday night.
The Durham all-rounder will take over temporarily from Joe Root.
Holder promoted himself to open the batting.
The all-rounder has been tested for Covid-19 after feeling unwell overnight.
The top five subsided to nine for three and 49 for five in their final competitive innings.
The Trinidadian led the warm-up session on day four of the practice match.
Archer took a wicket for Jos Buttler’s team on the second morning at the Ageas Bowl.