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Crawley gets comfy on Antigua featherbed as England take three-figure lead against WI

West Indian supporters may long remember Day Three of the First Apex Test between Kraigg Brathwaite’s West Indies and Joe Root’s England at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua. Day Four they will want to hastily forget.

It rained—H2O from the skies intermittently and runs from the bats of the England skipper, Root, and on-again-off-again opener Zak Crawley consistently.

Photo: England opener Zak Crawley was unbeaten on 117 at the end of Day Ffour of the First Test in Antigua on 11 March 2022.
(via ODU.BZ)

At the end of the day, Crawley was unbeaten on 117, Root not out on 85 and England were nicely placed on 217 for 1—a lead of 153, with nine wickets still in hand and an unlikely but outside chance of forcing a result in their favour.

On this unhelpful track, it seems more than a stretch, especially as Root is unlikely to have the services of England’s fastest bowler, Mark Wood, still receiving treatment for an elbow injury.

But as one English optimist commented, “These two need to […] pick up the pace rapidly so we have enough to be able to declare an hour into tomorrow morning. [Ben] Stokes and Jonny [Bairstow] may enjoy the equivalent of a Test match T20 session (at some later stage in the game.)”

And despite the better-than-respectable 375 they posted in their first innings, Brathwaite’s men have not quite succeeded in convincing their supporters that the next collapse is not around the corner.

England have not either. But it never looked like coming today, when Root and Crawley showed no vulnerabilities.

Photo: England captain Joe Root (left) congratulates Zak Crawley on his century against the West Indies on 11 March 2022.
(Copyright Getty Images)

Crawley has had a string of low scores since he scored 257 against Sri Lanka in Southampton in 2020. Today, on the Antigua featherbed, he ended his dry spell in memorable fashion. He slammed 16 fours in his 117 and combined with his skipper to record England’s highest second-wicket partnership since Nick Compton and Jonathan Trott put on 210 against New Zealand in Wellington in 2013 and their seventh-highest partnership this century.

Today, he kept the leg-side fieldsmen busy, most of his 16 boundaries coming on that side of the wicket. He needed 100 balls for his 50, which contained only four fours, but added another 50 in only 81, with fourteen fours in all.

With his 117, the wait for a game in which England got a century from one of their batsmen in both the first and second innings ended at five years. Ben Foakes made 107 in the first innings and Keaton Jennings 146 in the second in the First Test vs Sri Lanka in Galle in 2018. The first innings century in this Test came from Bairstow, who eventually scored 140 off 259 balls after crawling to his 50 off 127.

In sharp contrast to his partner, Root is coming off a prolific 2021 in which he scored 1,708 runs, including six centuries. But in the first innings, he fell for just seven to an error of judgement, shouldering arms to a nip-backer from Kemar Roach.

Photo: England captain Joe Root is bowled by West Indies pacer Kemar Roach in the first innings of the First Apex Test in Antigua.
(Copyright Reuters)

Today, his first four came off the edge of his bat through the slips after he had progressed to 11 off 34 balls. After that, he never looked in any trouble against any of the West Indian bowlers. And his bat seemed to have lost its edge.

He walked to the crease in the 11th over, after Roach had trapped Alex Lees LBW in single digits for the second time in the match.

And he never put a foot wrong, moving steadily to 50 off 108 balls with just four fours and then adding the next 34 off just 50.

Brathwaite could find no answer. He relied on his four front liners  early on but, when those four could make no impression, he turned to his lollipops as he has tended to do in recent times, sending down a four-over spell before tea. At that point, he had only called on the left-arm spin of Veerasammy Permaul (10-0-51-0) for two overs.

Photo: West Indies pacer Kemar Roach (centre) made an early breakthrough in the second innings against England on 11 March 2022 but could not dislodge Alex Crawley or Joe Root.
(Copyright AP)

It mattered not. When yet another rain interruption sent the players off for the final time today, Nkrumah Bonner, dismissed by part-timer Dan Lawrence after a marathon nine-hour knock late on Day Three, had been called up to see if he could perhaps make a breakthrough with his leg-spinners.

At the start of the day, three balls had proved to be all England needed to wrap up the West Indian innings. With a mere two byes added to the overnight 62-run lead, Jayden Seales played down the wrong line at Jack Leach, was struck on the pad and Umpire Joel Wilson raised the dreaded finger.

Weather permitting, Bonner will have four balls to complete his first over when play resumes at 9.30am tomorrow, half-hour early to compensate for the rain stoppages.

It may make no difference at all to the eventual outcome. But the West Indies supporters will be hoping that four balls will be one more than Bonner needs to break this record partnership.

Photo: West Indies supporters enjoy action in the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound in Antigua during the First Test against England.
(via CWI Media)

(SUMMARISED DAY FOUR SCORES)

Toss: England

England 1st Inns: 311 all out (100.3 overs) (Jonny Bairstow 140, Ben Foakes 42, Ben Stokes 36; Jayden Seales 22-6-79-4, Kemar Roach 21-3-86-2, Jason Holder 21-11-24-2, Alzarri Joseph 20.3-2-70-2) & 2nd Inns: 217 for 1 (63.2 overs) (Zak Crawley 117*, Joe Root 84*; Kemar Roach 13-2-31-1)

West Indies 1st Inns: 375 all out (157.3 overs) (Nkrumah Bonner 123, Kraigg Brathwaite 55, Jason Holder 45, John Campbell 35; Ben Stokes 2/42, Jack Leach 2/79, Craig Overton 2/85, Dan Lawrence 2-2-0-1)

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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