The West Indies' pace attack took five wickets in the final session of day four to reduce England to 284-8 at stumps at an empty Rose Bowl on Saturday, making the tourists marginal favorites with the pitch slow but yet to misbehave.
Zak Crawley (76) and Dom Sibley (50) were the two batsmen to get half-centuries, while stand-in captain Ben Stokes chipped in with 46 before the late Windies fightback. “It should be tight if we bowl well tomorrow,” said Crawley, who posted his highest score in his fifth test.
“To get above a 200(-run) lead would be very nice and give us a great chance of winning the game." That will be on the shoulders of unbeaten batsmen Jofra Archer (5) and Mark Wood (1), with James Anderson to come in at No. 11.
Shannon Gabriel was straight and fast again, bowling Ollie Pope and Dom Bess in the last hour to finish with figures of 3-62 off his 18 overs to go with his 4-62 in England's first innings. Joseph was arguably more impressive, taking 2-40 off 16 overs. He got the key wickets of Crawley and Jos Buttler (9) in an 11-ball span in his final spell of the day, helping to turn the tide of the match just as England threatened to get on top following a 98-run partnership between Stokes and Crawley.
West Indies captain Jason Holder was responsible for Stokes' wicket for the second time this week, the England allrounder miscuing a short ball to gully. The first two sessions were slow going, with England crawling along at a run rate of 2.3 per over at one stage having started the day on 15-0.
Crawley said the pitch might be getting slightly harder to bat on. “It’s definitely two-paced, and with the new ball it started to bounce a bit more,” he said. “The old ball kept low more than bounced, but the new ball was starting to hit the gloves and there was a bit of nip there a couple of times.”
It is the first of three tests in a series being played in an isolated environment because of the coronavirus pandemic.
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