[www.inewsguyana.com] – Two West Indian captains, Denesh Ramdin and Jason Holder, kept their team fighting on the final day in Antigua as they went to tea on 268 for 6. Although plenty of time remained for England to secure victory there were signs of frustration growing, not least from James Anderson who earlier equalled Ian Botham as England’s leading Test wicket-taker but could not find that elusive 384th wicket.
Anderson’s 383rd Test scalp had come shortly before midday when Marlon Samuels edged to gully and when Chris Jordan removed Jermaine Blackwood moments ahead of the new ball, West Indies were 189 for 6 and 51 overs remained in the Test. By tea, that figure was down to 31 – or two hours of play – although England will remember from the first innings how swiftly West Indies’ lower can be dispatched. West Indies, or at least the five who were playing, can draw on memories of 2009 when they defied England nine down.
Anderson was not used first thing in the morning session by Alastair Cook, who started the day with James Tredwell and Stuart Broad, but when called upon produced a seven-over spell where he extracted an increasing amount of reverse swing. His record-equalling moment arrived when he drew Samuels into driving at a full delivery outside off that was edged low to Tredwell in the gully.
He probed away for another four overs, but the closest he came to putting himself atop Botham was when a booming inswinger crashed into Jermaine Blackwood’s boot but would have missed leg stump. He returned with the second new ball and almost removed Ramdin in his first over when he squared him up but the outside edge flew wide of fourth slip and there was precious little else on offer in a four-over spell.
Broad came closest to breaking the seventh-wicket stand when Holder pulled a short delivery which landed short of Jonathan Trott but the pitch was refusing to yield right until the bitter end. Holder gave the latest example of why there is a school of thought that his batting may yet overtake his bowling as his major asset and Ramdin showed the judgement that has helped him average nearly 10 runs above his career mark since January 2012.
The opening seven overs of the day had brought one run when Samuels and Devon Smith resumed, with any notion of West Indies aiming to chase down the runs clearly not on the agenda. Tredwell, who has been impressive throughout, provided the opening breakthrough when Smith gave away 174-balls of concentration by picking out mid-on as he all of a sudden tried to come out of his shell and advanced at the bowler.
Tredwell continued to vary his pace and flight skilfully, helping to compensate for the fact that he is not a huge turner of the ball, during a 13-over spell which was ended 20 minutes before lunch when Root was given another chance to be a partnership breaker. Once again, the move paid off handsomely.
In the second over of his spell Root slid one into the pads of Shivnarine Chanderpaul that would have crashed into middle and leg stump – the first lbw of the match. Chanderpaul, a man very capable of batting out two sessions, reviewed in hope rather than expectation and was walking off the ground before the decision was confirmed.
As he did in the first innings, Blackwood mixed caution with aggression until, in the last over before the new ball was due, inexplicably charging at Jordan, swinging across the line, and getting a bottom edge which was well held by Buttler. It was the type of stroke that appeared to signal a white flag, but not for the first time in the match West Indies dug deep to take it into the final session.