For a session and a half on the opening day of the Third Apex Test at the National Stadium in Grenada today, Kraigg Brathwaite’s West Indies were firmly in the driver’s seat. But by the end of the day, with numbers 10 and 11 their top scorers, Joe Root’s side had recovered from 67 for 7 in the 38th over and 114 for 9 in the 54th over immediately after tea to be all out for 204 in the day’s last over.
Pacer Saqib Mahmood, who made his debut in Barbados but did not bat in either innings, stole the spotlight. He came to the wicket with his team in dire straits at 114 for 9 to join left-arm finger spinner Jack Leach (41 off 141, 4 x 4, 1 x 6), who was fighting the good fight on 10 off 41 balls at the other.
He was still there when, with spin made compulsory by the fading light, Brathwaite called up part-time leg-spinner Jermaine Blackwood to bowl the day’s last over. Having clouted the third ball imperiously back down the wicket for a boundary, a disappointed Mahmood got an inside edge to the next—inadvertently directing it onto his stumps.
He had defied Brathwaite’s unvaried attack for 149 minutes, faced 118 balls and overhauled his senior partner on the way to what would have been a well-deserved half-century in his first Test innings.
English television commentator Mark Butcher may well have foreseen that an entire side would be bowled out by the end of the day even though he reported before the start of play that the Grenada pitch had ‘something like 6-7mm of grass and it’s thick and luscious’.
“There are some thick patches on a decent length,” he said, “and one or two cracks underneath that. There’s a bit of moisture underneath and we’ve had a bit of a shower—and it’s unbelievably humid.”
Unsurprisingly, unlike its predecessors in Antigua and Barbados, it offered help to bowlers and spectators and statisticians alike were treated to the rare spectacle of the three largest innings partnerships being the last three, 23, 24, and 90.
If Butcher’s information is accurate, the only other time that has happened was in 1885—within eight years of the first official Test match.
The drama began early after Brathwaite won the toss and asked England to have first strike. Kyle Mayers, who replaced Veerasammy Permaul, the lone front-line spinner in the West Indies line-up, was called up to replace Roach and, in only his second over, induced a false shot from opener Zak Crawley, who picked out Brathwaite at short extra-cover.
Mayers would end the morning session with rare figures of 5-5-0-2, catching Root’s edge in his next over to see Joshua da Silva take a regulation catch at the wicket.
Jayden Seales, who had bowled without luck in his first three-over spell with the new ball, returned for a second crack and struck in-form Dan Lawrence plumb in front. He would later breach the defences of both Ben Foakes and Chris Woakes on either side of tea to keep WI in the ascendancy and end with the best figures of 3/40.
Alzarri Joseph (2/33) and Kemar Roach (2/41) soon got into the act, the first having the dangerous Ben Stokes caught and bowled and then forcing Bairstow to give Da Silva his third catch of the day.
Before that, Alex Lees (31, 5 x 4) feathered one from Roach through to the keeper to end his 97-ball vigil and make Da Silva’s tally at that stage two. And Roach forced one through the defences of the fit-again Craig Overton, back in the side in place of Matt Fisher.
At tea, the scoreboard read 114 for 8, Lees and the not out Woakes, not out on 25, being the only two of the top eight batsmen in double figures.
With the score unchanged, Woakes was dismissed off the second ball of the second over after the interval. That raised the prospect of an England total not much greater than 100 and the WI batting by day’s end. But Seales and Joseph failed to dislodge the last-wicket pair early on and when Mayers returned, although he did occasionally cause some alarums, the magic of the morning was gone.
Speaking after the game, Seales called the evening session ‘a bit frustrating’.
“We were expecting to get the English guys out way before 200. We were looking at maybe 150, for the most. I think we let them off the hook…”
Brathwaite stuck with his pacemen, giving the wicketless Jason Holder an extended spell until the second new ball hove into sight. Then he summoned Nkrumah Bonner to pair his leg-spin with his own enticing off-spinners, not so much to try to buy a wicket as to hasten the arrival of the second new ball.
But the lower-order pair left their top-order with mud on their faces as they kept both Roach and Seales at bay with no great difficulty.
And then the umpires intervened to force Brathwaite to summon Blackwood. With a little help from the arguably over-eager Mahmood, he ensured that the West Indies openers will have all night to prepare themselves psychologically for the less-than-daunting task of helping WI overhaul the modest England total that faces them tomorrow.
“For me and I think for the team as well,” Seales told the interviewer, “it is bittersweet.
“If someone came to us and told us we would get England out for 200, we would be very pleased. […] If someone told us they were batting 110 for 9 and got to 204, you would be disappointed in yourself. So it is just a matter of us if we get in this kind of position to close off the game and get the job done.”
SUMMARISED DAY ONE SCORES
Toss: West Indies
England 1st Inns: 204 all out (89.4 overs) (Saqib Mahmood 49, Jack Leach 41*, Alex Lees 31, Chris Woakes 25; Jayden Seales 3/40, Kyle Mayers 2/13, Alzarri Joseph 2/33, Kemar Roach 2/41)
West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shamarh Brooks, Nkrumah Bonner, Jermaine Blackwood, Kyle Mayers, Jason Holder, Joshua Da Silva, Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales.