England 399 & 116-3

West Indies 295

In #CricketEngland look to be in a commanding position in the first Test match in Antigua after day three, leading the West Indies by 220 runs already with seven wickets remaining in their second innings. The hosts had resumed the day on 155-4, still hopeful of limiting any first innings deficit they might face, but the English bowlers persevered and dismissed them with a lead of over 100 runs still in their favour. The topsy-turvy nature of the match continued into England's second innings though as the top order batsmen once again struggled. It was left to the Yorkshire pairing of Gary Ballance and Joe Root to see the tourists through to the close of play, the game still not a foregone conclusion for an England victory but now looking to be heavily in their favour.

Advertisements
Advertisements

West Indies' position would have been even more perilous but for a wonderful unbeaten century by Jermaine Blackwood.

James Tredwell's spin proved to be a key factor in limiting the Caribbean side's first innings total, his miserly 26-over spell not only yielding just 47 runs (including twelve maidens) but more strikingly including four precious wickets. Perhaps key among his victims was the dismissal of the durable Shivnarine Chanderpaul for 46, drawing him down the pitch and having him caught at short cover. He had added 93 for the fifth wicket with Blackwood, who continued to flourish and ultimately reached 112 not out for his first century in Test match cricket. Sadly for Blackwood, the wickets continued to tumble at the other end and it was left to James Anderson to finish off the tail, taking the last wicket to move to within one wicket of Ian Botham's all-time English Test record.

Advertisements

In the process of doing so, England was also provided with a more than useful 104 advantage after an innings apiece had been completed.

After the travails for openers Jonathan Trott and Alastair Cook in the first innings, the visitors would have hoped for far better second time around from the experienced pairing, but yet again both players failed. Jerome Taylor bowled a lively spell to remove them both cheaply, Trott for 4 and Cook for 13. It seems that the imminent arrival of Moeen Ali in the Caribbean could prove to be extremely well timed, given the top order issues. Even first innings' centurion Ian Bell was unable to provide the necessary resistance in his second knock, allowing the substitute fielder to run him out for 11 as he suffered a lack of concentration. Ballance (44) at least stuck around for once with his county teammate Root (32), as a more respectable look was restored to the total by the end of play, with Ballance especially in dire need of some runs after a terrible World Cup campaign and little sign of an upturn in form until now.

Advertisements

The pair will resume their spell at the crease on day four, looking to move England into a position whereby they can be bowling again with the best of four sessions of the match remaining. They should have enough runs by then to push for the victory, but even that will not paper over the cracks at the top of the order, with Ali an obvious candidate to come straight into the second Test whatever the result in Antigua over the next few days.