Holder, Bonner lift West Indies after mid-innings wobble
West Indies 202 for 4 (Brathwaite 55, Holder 43*, Bonner 34*) trail England 311 (Bairstow 140, Seales 4-79) by 109 runs
Two key partnerships at either end of the day pushed West Indies closer to parity with England on the second day of a to-and-fro Test in Antigua.
This match has had not so much the twists and turns of a helter skelter but the slow, loping swings of a pirate ship ride after England’s recovery from 48 for 4 to a respectable 311 built on Jonny Bairstow’s century and then West Indies’ rapid response via Kraigg Brathwaite and John Campbell as the visiting bowlers failed to penetrate with the new ball.
West Indies were enjoying all the fun of the fair at 44 without loss by lunch, Brathwaite going along at a run-a-ball, but by tea they were 127 for 4 and England had wrested back some control. Then Nkrumah Bonner and Jason Holder combined for an unbroken 75-run partnership for the fifth wicket that kept their side in the contest.
Chris Woakes was one of the bowlers tipped by England’s interim director of cricket, Andrew Strauss, to blossom as a leader of the attack in the controversial absence of long-time spearheads James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
But he endured a torrid day, conceding 23 off his first three overs, only finding relief when he snared the wicket of Jermaine Blackwood moments before the second of several brief showers which halted play intermittently through the day, brought about an early tea break. Woakes was struck for 10 fours in as many overs, which cost 51 runs on a benign pitch that for a second straight day offered little to either side.
When he rejoined the attack for two more overs – before yet another of the squalls which had dampened England’s efforts with a reverse-swinging ball brought about stumps – Woakes conceded just three more runs.
Spinner Jack Leach had bowled five tight overs until Campbell clubbed him for four over extra cover and Brathwaite thundered a six down the ground in Leach’s sixth as West Indies’ opening swelled to 83. But it was Craig Overton who made the initial breakthrough with a short ball down the leg side that tempted Campbell into a pull and brushed the glove on the way through to keeper Ben Foakes to punctuate West Indies’ keen start.
As Shamarh Brooks took West Indies into the nineties with consecutive boundaries off Overton, Ben Stokes entered the attack to bowl for the first time since suffering a side strain during the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney.
A single off Stokes’ first ball brought up Brathwaite’s fastest Test fifty – off just 62 balls – but Mark Wood, whose pace and reverse swing kept West Indies’ batters on their toes, ended Brathwaite’s knock on 55, the West Indies captain chasing a wide delivery that went directly to Overton at gully. Then Stokes removed Brooks, edging to Joe Root for a simple catch at slip, and suddenly West Indies were wobbling.
Foakes put down a difficult chance diving low to his left off Blackwood, who was yet to score when he got an inside edge to a Wood delivery which found the keeper’s glove but failed to stay there as he went to ground.
Blackwood, eventually caught in the gully by Overton , was given not out by umpire Joel Wilson amid hearty appeals from the England side, who swiftly reviewed. UltraEdge confirmed Blackwood had indeed laid bat on ball before it struck his thigh pad and looped into the air as West Indies lost a fourth-wicket for 44 runs.
Leach bowled nine maidens in all – seven of them on the trot in the evening session – in an excellent comeback from a chastening Ashes tour as Holder and Bonner chose their moments well in a sensible, steadying effort. Holder led the way, picking off six fours and a cracking six – over long-on off Root – to close on 43 not out, with Bonner on 34.
Earlier, England resumed at 268 for 6 with Bairstow on 109 but, with the ball only six overs old, West Indies had designs on wrapping up the innings quickly. They did so before lunch, but not before Bairstow had reached 140 and taken the England total into elusive territory – past the 300-mark for the first time since August 2021.
Jayden Seales came on in the fifth over and struck with his fourth delivery, an excellent short ball that touched Woakes’ glove and sailed through to keeper Joshua Da Silva, ending his seventh-wicket stand with Bairstow at 71. Seales then made it two in three balls when Overton stabbed a length ball towards short leg, where the crouching Bonner took a roundabout catch via his midriff, thighs and eventually hands.
Bairstow continued to accumulate, driving Holder with aplomb through cover moments before feeding him a return catch that bobbled out of Holder’s hands. Bairstow was eventually last man out, top-edging Alzarri Joseph high over backward point, where Holder scrambled around and pouched an excellent catch. (ESPNcricinfo)