England set testing victory target after Joe Root declaration following 24th Test century
Tea West Indies 375 and 65 for 3 need another 221 runs to beat England 311 and 349 for 6 dec (Crawley 121, Root 109)
With a minimum of 38 overs to be bowled in the elongated final session of the match, West Indies went to tea at 65 for 3, needing an unlikely 221 runs for victory against an attack that has been shorn of the services of its fastest bowler, Mark Wood. After withdrawing from the attack before lunch on day three, Wood’s future on the tour is now in serious doubt after he reported “acute pain” in his injured right elbow during a nets session before the start of play.
The likelihood of forcing victory on an unforgiving surface at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium was slim even before Wood’s status was known, but in adding a further 132 runs in 25 overs of an extended morning session, the evidence from the day’s outset was that England always intended to have a dart at West Indies’ brittle batting in the final two sessions.
After resuming on their overnight 217 for 1 – a lead of 153 – England lost their centurion Zak Crawley early on, but Root built on his overnight 84 to reach a 24th Test hundred of his own, and first of 2022. Alongside him, Dan Lawrence, filling Root’s former No. 4 berth, blazed his way to a forceful innings of 37 from 36 balls, in an obvious statement of England’s intentions.
A mid-morning collapse of 4 for 19 revived a few memories of England’s more recent batting meltdowns, but when Root called his team in with 22 minutes to go before lunch, West Indies were required to see off a tricky four-over spell – which Brathwaite and Campbell did with few alarms – before setting their platform for a potential sprint-finish in the contest’s closing stages.
The pair negotiated the new ball with contrasting poise. Despite Campbell’s dashing reputation, he was by a distance the least fluent of the openers, and was especially troubled by the left-arm spin of Leach, entrusted with the new ball. Campbell had inched along to 1 from 19 balls when he was dropped off a skied leading edge by Crawley, running back from slip, and the solitary boundary of his innings – an attractive drive through the covers off Leach – came one ball after he had skimmed a less convincing hack over the head of Stokes at mid-off.
At the other end, Brathwaite found a comfortable balance between stickability and intent to set West Indies’ tempo with an innings of 33 from 82 balls. He had one atrocious brain-fade, a wild swipe across the line as Leach straightened a length ball over his bails, but made amends in the same over with a calm clip through midwicket for the third four of his innings.
Soon afterwards, however, Stokes made the breakthrough – and almost inevitably, given his first-innings exertions. Stokes had been held back until the 24th over, ostensibly waiting until the ball was ready to reverse-swing, and with his seventh delivery, he skidded a full-length nipbacker into Brathwaite’s shin, to send him on his way for 33 from 82 balls.
One over later, Leach finally got some reward for a disciplined, probing spell, as Campbell’s luck ran out. Needing to up his own tempo now that the captain was gone, Campbell gave Leach the charge but scudded a flat drive towards Craig Overton at mid-off, who swallowed the chance comfortably above his head to leave West Indies in a bit of strife on 59 for 2.
Thereafter England were able to turn the screw, as West Indies’ focussed on regrouping. With Stokes and Leach in harness, the new men Shamarh Brooks and Nkrumah Bonner, the first-innings centurion, were limited to two runs in the space of six overs before, with tea looming, Brooks swept Leach for a pressure-relieving four, only to succumb to his very next ball, courtesy of a sharp take from Crawley at slip.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket