West Indies’ second wicket pair of Chris Gayle and his former deputy Ramnaresh Sarwan batted England into the ground in the opening Test at Sabina Park on Thursday.
England’s bowlers lacked penetration as Sarwan, undefeated on 74, and Gayle, 71 not out, carried West Indies to 160 for one, replying to England’s first innings total of 318, when stumps were drawn on the second day.
The closest England came to separating the two batsmen came when they asked for a leg before wicket decision be referred to the video umpire with Sarwan on 2 from the bowling of Andrew Flintoff and then umpire Tony Hill’s leg before verdict from the bowling of Steve Harmison was overruled by video umpire Daryl Harper when the same batsman was on 5.
After this, England could not find a way through either batsmen, as they both stroked the ball with crisp assurance.
Monty Panesar, whose left-arm spin was expected to trouble the West Indies batsmen, failed to make an impact and Gayle slapped him through square cover for three to reach his 50 from 70 balls.
Steve Harmison, who has fond memories of the ground following his best bowling in Tests of seven wickets for 12 runs, also looked way below his best and Sarwan nursed him behind square for two to reach his 50 from 111 balls.
England’s only success came prior to tea when they claimed the scalp of Devon Smith for 6, who was adjudged leg before wicket after he completely missed the flight of a delivery from Flintoff and was struck on his left boot.
Umpire Hill initially gave “not out,” but under the new decision review system the batsman was dismissed after referral to the video umpire. But two other referrals to the video umpire went against the visitors and they were eventually docked one of the two reviews allowed to the fielding team in each innings.
The first of the two confirmed that Sarwan was clearly not out when Flintoff appealed for a leg before wicket verdict for a delivery that was clearly heading down leg-side.
The second saved Sarwan from being dismissed when he was struck playing back to an off-cutter from Harmison and Hill adjudged him out.
England’s first innings was terminated about 20 minutes after lunch when Harmison and Panesar fell leg before wicket, with both batsmen unsuccessfully challenging their dismissals.
Sulieman Benn was West Indies’ most successful bowler with four wickets for 77 runs from 44.2 overs, Jerome Taylor took three for 74 from 20 overs and Daren Powell grabbed two for 54 from 20 overs.
Before lunch, Matt Prior completed a purposeful half-century that helped England reach 311 for eight at the interval.
England suffered an early setback after they continued from their overnight total of 236 for five, when Flintoff was caught at backward point for 43 off Powell chasing a short, wide, rising ball.
The visitors then stumbled to 256 for seven when Broad was caught at gully for 4, slicing a drive off Taylor.
For the next 45 minutes Prior and Ryan Sidebottom stemmed the fall of wickets with a stand of 32 for the eighth wicket.
Prior reached his 50 when he edged a big drive at a delivery from Powell and the ball flew just wide of the second slip fielder Smith on its way to the third man boundary for the fifth of his seven fours.
But Prior paid for his petulance when he tried to launch an attack on Benn and was caught and bowled about 45 minutes before the interval to expose the England tail.