At the Masters in Georgia, they call Saturday ‘moving day’. At the National Stadium in Grenada today, a masterly maiden Test century by wicketkeeper/batsman Joshua Da Silva first moved Kraigg Brathwaite’s West Indies into the saddle of the Third Apex Test.
Then, with the first innings lead 93, allrounder Kyle Mayers (13-7-9-5) produced a wonderful spell of medium pace bowling to leave Joe Root’s England on 103 for 8 and hand the home side total control of the reins.
With two days left in the match and England just ten runs ahead, the West Indians look set to continue their domination of the tourists in the Caribbean. But that seemed a most unlikely end-of-the-day situation when, with his score 55 and the West Indies lead just 28, Da Silva walked out to the middle this morning in the company of number ten Kemar Roach (25 off 82, 4 x 4).
When he eventually left—for the second time!—at the delayed lunch break, he had overhauled his previous best 92 to reach a round hundred and the WI lead was up to 93.
At close of play on Friday, Da Silva had said that ‘Roachy can bat […] (and) I have all faith in Jayden’.
It showed. Roach’s patient vigil ended at 245 for 9 when the pacer tried to fend off a leg-side delivery from Saqib Mahmood and tickled it through to Ben Foakes behind the stumps.
Then on 65, Da Silva played normally at first. Eventually, however, he began to play more cautiously, farming the strike and exposing his junior partner to no more than the last two balls of the over when the situation allowed.
Steadily accumulating runs on the on-side where over 80% of his 100 came, he nursed Seales all the way to the point where the 100-run lead was in sight.
Seales, not yet off the mark, was reprieved but only because the umpire’s not out decision could not be challenged by Root, who had no reviews left.
Immediately after Roach’s dismissal, Da Silva himself would also be reprieved by the technology when he was struck dead in front. UltraEdge showed a slight nick.
Together, the pair steadily increased the lead until they got to 270 in the 106th over. Then, suddenly becalmed, they allowed the England bowlers to deliver six successive maidens before, liberated, Da Silva took 10 off Jack Leach’s 20th over to get to 90.
The shackles broken, Seales smashed Leach high up into the stands in his next over. And Da Silva (100* off 257, 10 x 4) clouted Craig Overton for boundaries off successive balls to finally reach the so long awaited landmark.
Overcome with emotion, the teary wicketkeeper took a long time to compose himself. Unsuccessfully. When Overton’s next ball flew into Foakes’ gloves between him and his bat, grazing something on the way, he perfunctorily reviewed the out decision but still walked all the way off the field.
UltraEdge revealed the ball had not hit the bat.
“The emotion said it all,” he said during the lunch break, “The tears just came to my eyes instantaneously.”
His concentration arguably disturbed by what one commentator called that ‘borderline farcical interruption’, Seales (13 off 59, 1 x 4, 1 x 6) offered Root an easy return catch in the next over to end the innings.
Da Silva’s unbeaten hundred occupied all of 257 balls and 355 minutes.
“I’ll take the average,” he told the lunch-time interviewer. “It’ll help a lot. I got a lot of stick out there for having a low strike rate but it didn’t matter to me.”
Mayers, who took centre-stage in the England innings, certainly was not among those critical of Da Silva’s snail’s pace. He said he was ‘inspired’ rather than disturbed or displeased by what he had seen.
Seales made the early breakthrough, having Crawley caught by Jason Holder in the slips. And Brathwaite summoned Blackwood for a change of the pace immediately after the water break in the last session, which may have helped Alzarri Joseph claim Jonny Bairstow to a catch at the wicket.
But the rest was the ‘Midas’ Mayers show. With first innings figures that at one stage had read 5-5-0-2, he recaptured that golden touch today. In spades!
Having removed Root caught in the slips for a duck in the first innings, he again sent him back in the same way, this time for five. He then bowled Dan Lawrence, shouldering arms, for a duck and, shortly afterwards, as Ben Stokes sought to withdraw his bat, his accurate delivery kissed the toe for stand-in wicketkeeper Shamarh Brooks to snaffle the chance.
At tea, his figures again made very rare reading: 5-1-7-3. But, as if those three big fishes were not enough, Mayers would return to bowl the defiant Alex Lees neck and crop with one that kept very low and also claim Overton to another Holder slip catch.
For good measure, between those last two dismissals, he rifled a throw in from the square-leg boundary to beat Foakes’ despairing dive at the striker’s end.
At that stage, England led by four runs. And Midas’ final figures, easily his best ever, seemed hardly flattering.
“The team always wanted this victory,” Mayers said after the day’s play, perhaps just a little prematurely, “so the guys decided we’re going to give it our all in this innings and it just worked out.”
Despite the glorious uncertainties for which the game of cricket is known, Brathwaite’s men clearly feel confident that the outcome of this game and this series, like so many before it in the Caribbean, is not in doubt.
And after Antigua and Barbados had largely meandered to predictable fifth-day conclusions, Grenada is positively arrowing to its seemingly inevitable Day Four end in favour of the clinical home team.
SUMMARISED DAY THREE 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)
& 2nd Inns: 103 for 8 (53 overs) Alex Lees 31, Jonny Bairstow 22; Kyle Mayers 13-7-9-5, Jayden Seales 10-2-24-1, Alzarri Joseph 12–1-34-1.)
West Indies 1st Inns: 297 all out (116.3 overs) Joshua da Silva 100*, John Campbell 35, Kyle Mayers 28, Alzarri Joseph 28, Kemar Roach 25; Chris Woakes 3/59, Saqib Mahmood 2/45, Ben Stokes 2/48, Craig Overton 2/81)