On the face of it, today was certainly a much better day for the West Indies than the first two of the Test. They came out in the morning with a new ball in some of the best conditions of the Test and restricted England to 398 all out. I said yesterday that they had to prevent a partnership from forming with Bell and someone who would be able to increase the scoring rate and that is exactly what they did. With some poor weather forecast later in the Test, England did appear to be consciously trying to get some quick runs and the West Indies did very well to usually make sure it was at the cost of a wicket. Jonny Bairstow looked pretty comfortable on debut, but went for only 16 and Prior had looked set too before he missed a straight one trying to flick it through mid-wicket. Only Tim Bresnan looked uncertain and he made a very quick duck. The bowlers were not faultless, however. Ian Bell always looked like he wasn’t going to get out unless he was the last man and Graeme Swann, whilst a decent batsman, was hitting orthodox cover drives to the boundary. A decent batsman he may be, but he is not so good that he should be able to get to thirty off 25 without some help from the bowling. Still, it was a creditable effort and kept the West Indies in the match, albeit barely.
They also managed a bit with the bat. It was not a fluent second innings to set a total, the scoreboard shows that much, but it was a far cry from the catastrophes they had at home. It was much more like what they did in the first innings: the bowlers on top for most of it, but not getting as many wickets as one would expect. By the end of the day they looked pretty comfortable. They in fact did exceedingly well (or were exceedingly lucky) to survive Jimmy Anderson’s spell with the new ball. They did show just a glimmer of their old form, however, and it was enough to cost them three wickets. After Bresnan got the first wicket, England all but telegraphed that they were going to bounce Powell. Broad came around the wicket with two men out on the hook. Between the capacity crowd at the ground and those watching on telly, there were no fewer than 100,000 people who knew what was coming. Powell was not amongst them. Broad’s bouncer was good, but Powell was surprised. He tried to hook, a bit half-heartedly, and could only get under it and sky an easy catch to Bell. That was bad. Worse was the horrible running mix-up on the stroke of tea. Bravo hit one to Bairstow and Edwards came halfway down the pitch before being sent back. It was one of the highlights of the day for England though as the debutant threw down the stumps directly.
Despite the flaws, it was clearly a better day for the West Indies. They can at least show up tomorrow knowing that the match could have been over by now. Part of the reason it is not, however, is the over rate again. Today we played six and a half hours and still lost five overs. That is unacceptable and the fault is with the West Indies again. By my maths, England batted for a total of eight hours and 48 minutes in their innings. That gives a ‘raw’ rate of 12.90 overs/hour. The ICC Test regulations section 16.3 set out a minimum rate of 15 overs/hour with two minutes allotted per wicket (when a new batsman comes in) and four per drinks break. There is also an exemption for reviews and other ‘unavoidable’ delays. By my count, in this innings that gives 18 minutes for wickets, 16 for drinks and let’s say another ten for reviews etc. The revised over rate is still only 14.07, far too low. Put another way, in the eight hours and four minutes of ‘real’ batting time the West Indies were seven overs short of the minimum of 121. The good news for Darren Sammy is that it looks like England will bat again and give him a chance to make up for lost time.
Tomorrow will probably see England win. The West Indies have done better than they might have and better than I thought they would, but the fact remains that they are in a pretty desperate position. Four down and still 35 runs in arrears means they will probably need to bat all day tomorrow and also probably won’t. They resisted today, but once again most of it was due to Chanderpaul and they are dependent on him staying around. If he does and they keep fighting the way they have done today they might last into the afternoon session, but that will still leave England with a fairly small target. My guess is that they will last past lunch, but only barely and England will knock the runs off around tea.