Skipper Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan hit centuries as the West Indies edged into a 34-run lead with three wickets remaining at stumps on the third day of the first Test on Friday.
Sarwan hit the top score of 107 and Gayle 103, his first Test century on his home ground, to help their side reach 352 for seven, replying to England’s first innings total of 318, at close of play at Sabina Park.
England appeared to have control of the match when they removed World Cricketer of the Year Shivnarine Chanderpaul about 15 minutes before tea to leave the West Indies on 254 for five.
But they again met resistance in the form of a sixth-wicket stand of 66 between Brendan Nash and Denesh Ramdin.
Ramdin was one of two wickets England claimed in the final session, when he became Monty Panesar’s first wicket in the 37th of the left-arm spin bowler’s 45 overs, leaving Nash to shepherd the tail until the close with 47 not out.
Stuart Broad was England’s most successful bowler with three wickets for 61 runs from 24 overs and Andrew Flintoff supported with two for 57 from 27 overs.
“It means a lot to me to score my first century on my home ground. It’s just unfortunate I couldn’t carry on,” Gayle said. “It will be nice to get a lead of at least 60 on this pitch. Hopefully the spinners can come into play for us.”
Broad said he had to work hard on a tough pitch.
“It’s flat and slow. The surface here is a bit like the sub-continent. You have to use the cutter and try and deceive the batsman,” he said.
England failed to make early inroads into the West Indies batting line-up after the home team continued from their overnight total of 160 for one. But Broad struck twice in the penultimate over before lunch to bring England back into the contest, after Gayle and Sarwan reached their landmarks.
Broad snared Gayle and then fellow hometown boy Xavier Marshall for a second-ball duck in the space of three balls, as the West Indies reached 224 for three at the interval.
England’s successes only came following a second wicket stand of 202 between Gayle and Sarwan.
Broad got a delivery to keep low to Gayle and the West Indies captain played back, being bowled when he inside-edged the ball onto his stumps.
Gayle batted for a little more than five and three-quarter hours, faced 193 balls and struck five fours and five sixes.
Clearly energized, Broad sprinted in to deliver his next delivery which rushed into the front of new batsman Xavier Marshall, but his and England’s loud appeal for a leg before wicket verdict were turned down by umpire Tony Hill. Broad tore in for his next delivery and produced a similar delivery that trapped Marshall plumb on the front foot and Hill this time upheld the appeal.
It was a total contrast to what had transpired earlier, when Gayle and Sarwan looked in command.
England’s bowlers, particularly Flintoff, fresh from his record-equaling price at the IPL auction and whose seven overs included three maidens and yielded just 12 runs, placed them under severe pressure.
But they inched to the hundred-run threshold.
England captain Andrew Strauss belatedly introduced Panesar in the last half-hour before the interval and Gayle, who benefited from a referral to the video umpire on 85 when he was given out caught behind off Flintoff, exploded.
Panesar saw Gayle loft him for consecutive sixes over long-on and then he was swept to deep fine leg for three as Gayle reached his ninth Test century from 182 balls.