James Anderson accepted England are “up against it” after ending day three of the first #raisethebat Test 99 runs adrift of the West Indies.
The tourists established a sizeable lead of 114 after posting 318 under the first bright skies of the week at the Ageas Bowl, though England openers Rory Burns and Dom Sibley nudged that down into double figures during a tense 10-over spell against the new ball.
Clearing the rest of the deficit and setting a match-winning chase is sure to be a tricky task against a high-class bowling line-up but Anderson combined realism with optimism as he assessed the home side’s chances.
“The West Indies have had the best of the first few days certainly, we are up against it,” he said.
“But we know exactly what we’ve got to do. If we bat well tomorrow and get a decent lead, get a bit ahead, we can give ourselves a chance of bowling them out in the fourth innings of the game.
“It’s not been our best performance with bat or ball these last few days so we’ve got work to do in the next couple. I don’t know about the pitch breaking up but it might get a little bit lower as the game goes on.
“We’ll need a little bit of luck. We don’t want it to deteriorate too much tomorrow obviously and then on the final it can do as much as it wants.”
Anderson claimed three for 62 in a typically reliable stint, while first-time captain Ben Stokes stepped up with his best figures for two years, four for 49.
Great expectations for the all-out pace of Mark Wood and Jofra Archer failed to be met, the 44 overs of the effort from the pair yielding only a number 11 scalp in Shannon Gabriel.
Anderson praised the skipper’s contribution, picking up the slack with three of the last four wickets to fall in the evening, adding: “Ben did a brilliant job. There were some decent miles in the legs of me, Jof and Woody so when he got those wickets at the end it as crucial.
“I thought Woody and Jofra bowled really well, but you have days like this in Test cricket. Jofra got a wicket off a no-ball – if he gets that, his confidence goes up and he could get on a roll. Similarly with Woody, I felt he bowled well in periods and on another day he could have had more wickets.”
West Indies opener Kraigg Brathwaite, whose 65 is the current top score of the match, was the first of Stokes’ quartet on a tight lbw decision.
Shane Dowrich also made a valuable 61 before succumbing to the all-rounder.
“England bowled well and it was really challenging throughout the day, always aggressive,” he said.
“So I think Dowrich and I did a good job for the team. It’s a low scoring game but I still think it’s a decent pitch and once guys get in runs can be scored.”
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