Joshua Da Silva had a steely glint in his eye as he acknowledged the plaudits of the crowd on Day Two of the Third Apex Test at the National Stadium in Grenada today. The wicketkeeper scored a critical, unbeaten, rear-guard 54 to push Kraigg Brathwaite’s West Indies past the 204 posted by Joe Root’s England in their first innings.
But the 23-year-old who was playing only his 13th Test, was only too aware that his heroic rescue act was not done. With the score at that stage reading 221 for 8, he and his partner Kemar Roach succeeded in taking it to 232 without further loss by the end of the day’s play.
On a second day that largely resembled the first, only eight wickets, two fewer than Thursday’s number, fell but there was plenty of action to keep interest in the game alive.
Da Silva joined the proceedings halfway between lunch and tea when the West Indies were struggling to keep their heads above water. From 95 for 6 at that stage, he would shepherd the lower order slowly but steadily past 100 (with number seven Kyle Mayers), past 150 (with number nine Alzarri Joseph) and then past 200 (with number ten Roach.)
Mayers, scorer of a match-winning double-century in Bangladesh batting at number five, made an authoritative 28 off 39 balls, containing four fours and one towering six. But when, with the seventh-wicket partnership worth 33, Stokes served him up a tempting half-volley, he merely succeeded in chipping it to Saqib Mahmood at mid-on.
More than once, Joseph shimmied down the wicket at Mahmood but ended up merely defending the delivery. Da Silva, who had made no effort to farm the bowling, made no effort to restrain his partner either.
Eventually, with the eighth-wicket partnership one short of 50 and the England lead just under 30, Joseph unwisely threw his bat at a short ball from Craig Overton and Ben Foakes took his third catch.
Like on Day One, the fielding team might have been thinking that they would be batting by the end of the day. But Roach has already bowled 93 overs in the series so far and he was clearly in no hurry to add to that number.
Wielding as straight a defensive bat as Da Silva, he left everything that was not threatening his stumps and kept out everything that was to be unbeaten on a 63-ball 25 at the end, the ninth wicket association worth 55.
Root relied on his quicker bowlers for 74 of the innings’ 86 overs. Perhaps surprisingly, Jack Leach was responsible for all of the other 12 overs of spin, Root never once turning to his own orthodox off-spin or the windmill off-spinners of Dan Lawrence, who has twice delivered big scalps in the late evening.
In the early morning, WI had begun well as in-form opener Brathwaite (17 off 56, 1 x 4) and John Campbell (35 off 54, 4 x 4) weathered the new ball storm, getting their side to 50 after the first hour.
But once the persistent Ben Stokes got a low one to cannon into Brathwaite’s pad right in front of the stumps, things went steadily downhill.
Mahmood, so influential with the bat on Day One, made an early mark with the ball, speeding a delivery past Shamarh Brooks’ bat and into his pads after softening him up with some hostile short-pitched bowling.
Campbell’s robust approach suggested that he was not about to sell his wicket cheaply. But he perished trying to swing Overton over the leg-side and contriving only to get an edge through to Foakes.
From 50 without loss at the end of the first hour, the innings subsided rapidly to be 71 for 3 at lunch. By the time vice-captain Jermaine Blackwood became the third LBW victim of the innings, Nkrumah Bonner and Jason Holder had already joined the procession back to the pavilion, both victims of the persistent short-pitched tactic Root’s bowlers employed after the lunch interval.
Taking evasive action from a Woakes bouncer, the First Test century-maker failed to get his gloves out of the way and Foakes swallowed the second of his three catches on the day.
The former captain, out for a 24-ball duck in Barbados, seemed to have decided that the best form of defence was attack. Launching into his third ball, another attempted bouncer from Woakes, he found a gleeful Jonny Bairstow under his miscued pull at midwicket.
With four half-centuries now under his belt and no three-figure innings, Da Silva is unlikely to go that route tomorrow. In the 153 minutes that he has been at the crease, he was as resolute as his skipper had been in the two previous drawn matches. And although he is unlikely to go on to get anywhere close to the 680-plus balls Brathwaite faced in Barbados to wrest the record away from Brian Lara, it should surprise no one if he aims so to do.
With three full days left in the match and the pitch still with ‘plenty of bright green grass and cracks running up and down it’, as Mark Butcher and Steve Harmison opined on television, ‘(…) some [balls] will bounce up and some will go along the deck’.
So Da Silva knows that the slim 28-run lead they have at the moment is not nearly enough. His job, he knows, is far from finished.
“Roachy can bat,” he told an interviewer, “Alzarri can definitely bat. I have all faith in Jayden [Seales] as well so, when it comes down to tomorrow, we’re just going to try to get as many runs as possible and try to get a really good lead.”
SUMMARISED DAY TWO 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 1st Inns: 232 for 8 (86 overs) Joshua da Silva 54*, John Campbell 35, Kyle Mayers 28, Alzarri Joseph 28, Kemar Roach 25*; Chris Woakes 3/48, Ben Stokes 2/40, Craig Overton 2/71)