Shiv leads Windies recovery in Antigua

England

An England collapse of 5/42 gave the West Indies some hope on the second morning as England stumbled to 399 all out. In reply the home batsmen failed to continue the momentum provided by their bowlers as they struggled to build partnerships and were 155 for four in reply at stumps on day two.

Some zippy line and length from an economical Jason Holder (2-69) helped bring wickets for Kemar Roach (4-94) and Jerome Taylor (3-90) at the start of the day as England stuttered in North Sound, Antigua. 

After sitting pretty on 341/5 overnight England would have been disappointed to not make 400 but a last-wicket stand of 38 between Chris Jordan (21 not out) and James Anderson (20) at least got them one run shy of that landmark.

Playing in his 100th match, it took Anderson four overs in vain before he was rewarded with the wicket of Devon Smith (11) via an edge to Jos Buttler behind the stumps. The scalp takes England’s best strike bowler in many years to a tally of 381 wickets, just two fewer than the record held by Ian Botham.

Smith’s dismissal didn’t help his shoddy average of 24 or so from 36 Tests and the fact that the batsman has been given so many chances is reflective of the sad state of West Indies Test cricket.

England kept chipping away as partnerships threatened but Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels and Kraigg Braithwaite also lost their wickets via the edges of their bats. At 99 for four the otherwise desultory Barmy Army crowd roused something of a cheer in the stands as England appeared to have the game by the scruff of the neck.  

It should have been 134 for five but television replays showed that Ben Stokes overstepped when Jermaine Blackwood (30*)was caught at slip 21. The plucky young Jamaican had been riding his luck and settled down to business with veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul (29*) after the reprieve. 

As usual Chanderpaul carries the weight of the middle-order on his shoulders with a heavier responsibility than any other man in Test cricket. Sadly the sun has long begun to set on his bright career and the batsman who is approaching 41 years of age has only struck half a dozen half-centuries in the past two years. 

He will much prefer these slower Caribbean surfaces to the lively ones on which he struggled in his last Test series in South Africa but he and Blackwood will likely have to do much more than just apply themselves to manage a first-innings lead in the match. 

Weather is always a concern in the Windies but the island of Antigua is in the midst of an acute drought very little rain is expected over the remaining three days. This may be a strong unbeaten partnership. 

A good crowd of 6000 or so was made up more of holidaymaking Englishmen than of West Indians but it was a Tuesday in an out-of-town stadium on an island of only 80 000 people. 

Test cricket hasn’t given West Indies fans much to cheer about in recent times. In the last twelve years their side has only beaten a top-six side and that was a scrappy 1-0 series win over England in these parts in 2008. 

England too have had a disappointing time of late and the series, which is not even being broadcast by some of the channels around the world that would always have shown it, offers immense intrigue for anyone that cares about Test cricket.

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