Tentatively at first, but with increasing certainty and confidence, Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott added 74 for the first England wicket in the 26 overs’ batting they had before the light finally closed in: the first steps perhaps towards the renaissance of both.
Cook will resume the third day on 37, from 92 balls so far with six boundaries, with Trott on 32, 69 balls and five fours, as England chase the West Indies first innings total of 299. If both were challenged with the new ball, despite the absence through injury of Jerome Taylor, who dismissed Trott twice and Cook once in Antigua, then neither offered any discernible chance.
Earlier the West Indies innings, underpinned by Marlon Samuels’ 103, his seventh Test hundred, was extended with a last wicket partnership of 52 between Devendra Bishoo and Shannon Gabriel. Stuart Broad, who had been as off-colour with the ball as Cook and Trott were with the bat in the first Test, finished with four for 61, and one delivery that cranked the speed gun up towards the upper reaches of what he has managed in the past.
Not until mid-afternoon did the weather perk up to allow a decent passage of play. The showers that had blighted the opening day, reducing it by 20 overs, returned for the second so that play was delayed by an hour initially and then twice more when they came back in curtains to all but obscure the wooden houses that cling perilously to the steep hillside behind the ground. Each time England were left frustrated, deprived of the natural rhythm that comes with time in the middle, while Samuels was engrossed in approaching his century with almost exaggerated caution for one who can be mercurial.
Eventually, faced with the second new ball, he reached three figures by steering Jimmy Anderson in the air through a gap in the slip cordon, a landmark he marked by strolling down the pitch as if he had done no more than play out a maiden over, with only a flick of the bat to the dressing room.
It had, though, been an innings of great diligence and determination, but having reached this particular goal he then reverted more to type, swung lustily at one ball from Anderson and then attempted to force the next in extravagant fashion off the back foot and edged to second slip. Anderson roared his delight, but perhaps just a little too obviously towards the batsman who had stirred the pot a little in his press conference the previous evening when he was scathing about the behaviour of Ben Stokes.
It started a better period for the England bowlers, especially Broad who, capable as he is of such bursts of success, was in the middle of sending down an eight-over spell that brought him the next three wickets for 19 runs. Denesh Ramdin, who had looked solid, was in receipt of a ball that left him a little and was clocked at more than 91 miles per hour, which is a reading at total odds with the lack of pace he had shown on the first day.
There was then an entertaining interlude in which Jason Holder, an unbeaten centurion in Antigua, first pulled Anderson’s bouncer over midwicket for six and then repeated the dose with Broad. The bowler then reacted by testing him again, although this time the connection lacked the rifle-shot crack and the ball appeared to have been well taken in the deep by Moeen Ali, plunging forwards. The fielder, though, was unsure whether the ball had quite carried as he scooped it up, and even the poor quality pictures provided for the third umpire showed clearly his doubt was justified. Broad did get his man when he drove at a fuller delivery and edged to Jos Buttler, with Kemar Roach following, caught in the gully from an inside edge and a rebound off his pad.
England’s management, meanwhile, have turned down a request from Yorkshire to let Adil Rashid return home. To even ask shows considerable nerve: this is an England tour with one more Test match to go and as such he could still play in that, through normal selection or through injury to others. Besides which, it would hardly be a boost to the esteem of the player if he thought he was rated that poorly that they were happy for him to pack his bags and leave.
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