For the second successive Test match it was England making all the running on the final day, throwing everything they could muster at West Indies in Bridgetown only to once again find themselves shaking hands on a draw after another defiant vigil from Kraigg Brathwaite.
West Indies had been set a target of 282 for victory from a minimum of 65 overs after England had thrashed their way to 185 for six at lunch and a second declaration in the match. The equation was not dissimilar to that witnessed in Antigua last week when the hosts needed 286 from 71 overs, so, too, their early switch to survival mode after the loss of three quick wickets.
But come 5.47pm local time the hosts had forced their guests to settle for a 0-0 scoreline going into Thursday’s third Test in Grenada. Brathwaite was simply the hardiest of perennials for England’s bowlers in this match, following his epic 11-hour first innings score of 160 with a further 246 minutes at the crease for an unbeaten 56. Jack Leach claimed three wickets, Saqib Mahmood two, but neither the West Indies captain, nor Joshua Da Silva at the other end on 30, could be dislodged.
“Pressure does funny things,” had been Mahmood’s upbeat outlook on the fourth evening, knowing the challenge in front of England’s bowlers would be a stiff one on a surface that had been heartbreaking. After Joe Root called time on the third innings at lunch, the debutant did his best to induce plenty, delivering a searing six-over burst that underlined the 25-year-old’s potential.
It was Leach who struck initially for England when he was tossed a hard new ball by Root just five overs in and instantly removed opener John Campbell via a bat-pad catch that needed the latest use of the review system in a series of poor umpiring. The lock picked, Mahmood then raised hopes of a stirring finale with the removals of Shamarh Brooks and Nkrumah Bonner.
Gliding in from the Joel Garner End before winding up into his smooth but slingy action, Mahmood struck with his sixth ball when Brooks edged the first catch to the cordon all the match. Root was credited in the scorebook – his 150th catch in Test cricket – but it was Zak Crawley at second slip who made it possible, twice palming the ball upwards before his captain ran round.
Root’s 151st was far simpler, at least, Mahmood smashing the ball into the pitch to extract the merest hint of seam away that squared up Bonner and took the edge. From 38 for three in just the 12th over West Indies managed to get through to tea, first innings centurion Jermaine Blackwood joining his captain for an hour and a half of steadfast resistance.
West Indies sitting three down going into the final session was another repeat scenario from the first Test but Leach swiftly changed the narrative after a change of ends, breaking 24 overs of resistance when he floated one up to Blackwood, found a smidgeon of turn and Jonny Bairstow – one of two close fielders kneeling down in the cage of catchers – snaffled it.
After Jason Holder soon fell for a 24-ball duck, trying to carve one through cover only to fall victim to an excellent diving catch from Dan Lawrence, West Indies went into the final hour five down. The tension was high, the crowd was being rewarded for the patience shown all match and no one could argue that England’s desire to take the contest deep this time was disrespectful.
The launchpad for England’s victory push had come in the morning when, in between showers and the now familiar sight of the local sound engineer racing on to rescue his stump microphones, they crashed 145 runs in just shy of 25 overs. Their batters cared little for red ink, losing six wickets along the way as the West Indies outfielders held a succession of superb catches in the deep.
Lawrence top scored with 41 from 39 balls, the wristy No 4 repeating his role on the final day in Antigua and completing a strong overall performance following his enterprising 91 on the opening day. He and Jonny Bairstow cleared the ropes a couple of times a piece to the delight of the crowd, while all eight batters were wing-heeled between the wickets with the field spread.
This was the first freewheeling session witnessed by the traveling supporters since Ben Stokes lit up the second day with his 128-ball 120, making way for a commendable assault on the West Indies lineup despite two of their frontline bowlers – Chris Woakes and Matthew Fisher – left redundant by conditions.
On the rebuild in the Caribbean, England are putting much stock in qualities such as energy and selflessness. Hopes of a first victory of the winter may have disappeared in the gloaming but on these fronts they are meeting the brief.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism