NORTH SOUND, Antigua – West Indies dispensed with flair and charisma for the virtues of grind and attrition, as they wore down luckless England, to drive home their advantage on a compelling second day of the second Test today.
Confronted with a two-paced and unpredictable surface at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, West Indies batsmen displayed rare discipline and graft in an admirable all-day batting effort to finish on 272 for six, in reply to England’s disappointing 187 on Thursday’s opening day.
Importantly, they lead by 85 runs, already a precious advantage going into Saturday’s day three, with left-hander Darren Bravo unbeaten on a hard-fought 33 and first Test hero and captain Jason Holder on 19.
Uncharacteristically, Bravo hardly played a shot in anger, facing 165 balls and hitting two fours while Holder followed suit, his knock consuming 58 deliveries with a single boundary.
The pair have so far added 36 for the seventh wicket, a partnership which frustrated England after the visitors seemed poised to run through the lower order after removing plucky wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich for 31, 55 minutes after tea.
Both Bravo and Dowrich took their cue from the patience exhibited by the top order as Kraigg Brathwaite top-scored with 49, opening partner John Campbell got 47 and Shai Hope chipped in with 44.
No batsman really dominated on a pitch which made fluent stroke-play difficult, and veteran seamer Stuart Broad exploited the conditions brilliantly to finish with three for 42 while off-spinner Moeen Ali picked up two for 54.
Resuming from their overnight 30 without loss, Brathwaite and Campbell survived a testing first hour, mainly against Broad, as they extended their opening stand to 70 – their third consecutive half-century stand.
Brathwaite faced 156 deliveries and struck three fours while the left-handed Campbell lived a charmed life in his 118-ball stay at the crease which included five fours.
Starting the day on 16, Campbell played and missed several times, before twice suffering a reprieve on 21. In the third over of the morning, he was given out caught at first slip off Broad, only for the decision to be overturned after the subsequent review showed the ball had clipped his elbow.
Then in Broad’s next over, Campbell stabbed at one that left him, only for Jos Buttler at third slip to grass a straightforward chance.
Campbell put the near misses behind him to twice punch Broad down the ground for boundaries, the last of which raised the half-century stand.
He seemed certain to reach his maiden Test half-century when he edged seamer Ben Stokes’s seventh ball of the morning and was caught at second slip by a relieved Buttler, nearing the hour mark.
On 126 for one at lunch, West Indies suffered a major setback in third over after the resumption when Brathwaite was caught at short leg off Moeen after adding just one to his interval 48.
The dismissal hailed England’s best period of the day as West Indies lost three wickets for 22 runs in quick time.
The stylish Hope, unbeaten on 22 at lunch, looked in good touch yet again, striking five fours in an attractive 64-ball innings.
But in an explosive over from Broad nearly 40 minutes after the break, Hope played and missed the first ball before nicking the next behind, and Roston Chase (4) followed three balls later, bowled off-stump by one that crept, leaving the Windies on 155 for four.
Shimron Hetmyer, who made 21 off 35 balls, stemmed the flow of the wickets in a 31-run, fifth wicket stand with Bravo.
But after pulling Moeen over the mid-wicket ropes, the 22-year-old attempted to go over the top with the spinner and was brilliantly caught by Jimmy Anderson racing in from long off, 40 minutes before tea.
Bravo and Dowrich settled the innings in a 50-run, sixth wicket partnership which took West Indies to tea on 212 for five – already a lead of 25 runs.
And together, they continued to frustrate the exasperated England bowlers, Dowrich, in particular, cashing in on the limited scoring opportunities on offer, as he struck five fours off 67 balls.
Nearing the hour mark, he fell to a virtually unplayable delivery from Broad which spat from a good length and took the glove, leaving Buttler at third slip to snare the gentle lob at 236 for six.
Any hopes though of a West Indies meltdown frittered away in the final hour as both Bravo and Holder kept their heads down.