West Indies captain Jason Holder took a career-best haul of 6 for 42 to roll England for 204 at the Ageas Bowl, before their top order saw them through to the close one wicket down.
Holder came into this series with an injury cloud over his head, having bowled only five overs across West Indies’ two intra-squad warm-up games while nursing an ankle complaint. He admitted that he felt “a little sore, a little stiff” after play on the second day, but that pain will be lessened thanks to the knowledge that he has put his team into the driving seat in this series.
Shannon Gabriel was given license to attack, snaring another three wickets to add to that of Dom Sibley on the first day, and while Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Dom Bess offered some resistance with the bat, England’s total of 204 looked a little light after a dogged start from West Indies.
While it would prove to be Holder’s day, it was Gabriel who made the early breakthroughs after Rory Burns and Joe Denly had come through the first half hour. Denly was the first to go, his stumps splattered as a vicious nip-backer burst through a hefty gap between bat and pad and crashed into the top of off. Then, after hanging the ball outside Burns’ off stump from round the wicket, Gabriel fired one in full at his pads, striking him in front of leg stump. Richard Kettleborough concluded it was missing leg stump, but Holder disagreed and was vindicated by a successful review.
In his second spell of the day, Holder started by teasing Zak Crawley with a series of outswingers, nibbling away and probing on a length in the channel outside his off stump. After Crawley’s streaky boundary through the slips ruined a maiden from his eighth over, Holder decided the time was right to bring one in at the start of his ninth, finding a hint of seam movement from wide on the crease which Crawley played around. Again, Kettleborough said no; again, Holder was convinced, and was proved right. Ollie Pope started with a pair of boundaries off him, but was soon back in the hutch after fencing at an away-nibbler, which Shane Dowrich gobbled up behind the stumps.
Buttler and Stokes led a counter-attack, putting on the only stand of 50 or more in the innings, but Stokes rode his luck. Before lunch he had miscued a hook shot to long leg, where Roach shelled a difficult chance after making his ground, and after looking to impose himself in the afternoon, Stokes chipped a low catch to Shamarh Brooks, who put down a sitter at short cover. Buttler looked a million dollars from the moment he arrived at the crease, with a back-foot punch through the covers the pick of his shots, but both fell in the space of two Holder overs.
First, having sensed Stokes using his feet, Holder pushed the ball fuller, first beating the bat and then drawing a faint edge through to Dowrich. The pair’s battle had been built up before this Test, with Holder suggesting he might not have been given the credit he deserved; there can be little doubt that he will be today. Buttler feathered his own edge behind which Dowrich took sharply, before Jofra Archer was trapped on the pad for a third overturned lbw. Mark Wood provided Holder with his sixth, driving loosely and edging to gully, before James Anderson’s stumps were rattled by Gabriel after some late resistance from Bess for the 10th wicket.
In reply, England bowled with good pace but failed to make as many breakthroughs as they would have hoped. Anderson was the most threatening bowler. Three times he wrapped John Campbell on the pad and had him given lbw; on the first two occasions, Richard Illingworth’s decision was overturned as the ball had pitched outside the leg stump, but on the third, the on-field call was upheld.
Wood and Archer, playing alongside one another for the first time in Test cricket, both bowled with real pace. Wood regularly broke the 90mph/145kph barrier and even hit 95mph/153kph but drew few false shots, as Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope – batting at No. 3, having come in below Shamarh Brooks in the warm-up fixtures – managed to dig in until the close.
It was easy to wonder whether Stuart Broad, tweeting his thoughts on the game from his hotel room balcony, might have made an impact in conditions that seemed perfectly suited to him.
There was widespread frustration at another couple of stoppages for bad light, as the clouds rolled in and brought play to an early close for the second night in a row, but thankfully the forecast is set fair for the rest of the Test.