ST GEORGE’S –– Middle-order batsman Marlon Samuels was leading the fightback in the second Test against England at the Grenada National Cricket Stadium as the West Indies ended a rain-hit day on 188 for 5 from the 70 overs bowled today.
Following early morning showers the English bowling attack set about their task with purpose and James Anderson, Chris Jordan (2), Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes all contributed wickets with only Samuels with an unbeaten 94 withstanding the British onslaught. Rain delayed the start of play by 105 minutes but when the action finally got underway, England began quickly as opening seamer Anderson removed Kraigg Braithwaite in his second over of the day.
Having bowled out-swingers for the entirety of his initial over, Anderson produced an exquisite in-swinger that moved from well outside off to clatter the top of leg stump and extend his lead as England’s leading Test wicket-taker of all time.
Braithwaite’s fellow opener, Devon Smith, was next to go for 15 in slightly bizarre circumstances. Smith appeared to edge Jordan through to Jos Buttler and was promptly given out but seemed reluctant to walk. Replays showed his bat had made contact with pitch rather than ball but the batsman opted not to use a review and England, rightly or wrongly, had a second wicket.
Having resumed on 36 for 2 after the lunch break, Darren Bravo and Shivnarine Chanderpaul departed in the afternoon session –– both to poor shots –– as England cemented the initiative.
Bravo had just sent a juicy Broad half-volley hurtling to the extra cover boundary when he went tentatively at a relatively-wide off-cutter from the seamer, providing captain Alastair Cook with a regulation catch at first slip.
There was a moment of concern for England early in the afternoon when all-rounder Stokes caught his knee in the turf and received treatment but, after appearing to struggle for the half-hour that followed, he was soon moving freely enough to bowl.
With his first ball of the Test, the Durham man earned his first wicket of the series. Chanderpaul was the man sent back in uncharacteristic circumstances as the veteran half-volleyed a wide delivery straight into the grateful grasp of the Moeen Ali at point.
The recalled Ali had been turning the ball promisingly with his off-spin and was agonisingly close to snaring a wicket of his own in the 41st over –– Samuels offering little as a shot and England reviewing Bruce Oxenford’s “not out” decision only to find the ball clipping the top of leg and staying with the initial on-field call.
Samuels and Jermaine Blackwood set about trying to resurrect the innings after tea and the first semblance of frustration for England was compounded in the 46th over of the day when Cook put down a fairly straightforward chance to dismiss the Samuels off the bowling of Jordan.
With the pair gathering momentum, travelling fans were again left thinking what might have been when Blackwood smashed uppishly down the ground via the thumb of bowler Broad to bring up the 50 partnership –– but the union was broken in the very next over.
Blackwood, who had showed glimpses of finding an attacking rhythm in his 58-ball 26, was the man to go as Jordan trapped him playing across the line in front of his stumps. Umpire Steve Davis’ “not out” verdict was successfully reviewed by England and the West Indies were 129 for 5.
At the other end, Samuels was playing with increasing abandon and the atmosphere emanating from England’s bowlers and fielders became hostile with his free-swinging bringing about boundaries and near-misses in equal measure.
Broad was particularly vocal in his criticism of one of Samuels’ less elegant attempts at hitting a six and there was more confrontation in the following over when a fired-up Stokes made his feelings known in the wake of a pair of boundaries off the edge.
Samuels –– no shrinking violet himself, as was proved during a famous altercation with Shane Warne in an IPL fixture in January 2013 –– was refusing to back down in action or word and umpire Steve Davis was in to cool the situation as it threatened to boil over.
West Indies captain Denesh Ramdin provided steady support for Samuels but contributed just four runs to their 50 partnership as day one ended with bad light with the West Indies arguably in the ascendancy and England’s bowling attack showing signs of tiring.
West Indies were forced into one change after Jerome Taylor was omitted from the line-up due to a shoulder injury and replaced by Shannon Gabriel.