The West Indies fought back well to take four wickets on the third morning of the second Test at Trent Bridge in Nottingham, England, yesterday as they checked England’s progress.
At lunch, England were 340 for six in reply to the West Indies’ 370 — still 30 runs behind after resuming on 259 for two in ideal, sunny batting conditions.
England captain Andrew Strauss was 125 not out, having started the day unbeaten on 102 — his second century in as many matches after his 123 in the five-wicket win over the West Indies at Lord’s in the first Test. Tim Bresnan was unbeaten on 4.
It was the first time in his 21 Test centuries that Strauss had added more than six runs when not out overnight on a century, but the fact he scored just 23 runs in the session was testament to the accuracy of the West Indies’ attack, with fast bowlers Ravi Rampaul and Kemar Roach doing the damage.
Kevin Pietersen had looked in excellent touch while making 72 on Saturday, but he added just eight runs to his overnight score when he was leg before wicket to a Rampaul inswinger.
Despite his challenge, Pietersen had to go for 80 to end a stand of 144.
At that stage, Rampaul had taken three for 43 and the rest of the attack none for 210.
The West Indies took the new ball as soon as possible with England 299 for three off 80 overs and it brought rewards, with Roach, who had sent down eight no-balls on Saturday, getting back into his stride with two wickets for six runs in 16 balls to reduce England to 308 for five.
With the fourth delivery with the new ball, Roach had Ian Bell aiming across the line, leg before wicket for 22, although the tourists had to challenge umpire Aleem Dar’s original not-out verdict.
Jonathan Bairstow, in just his second Test, never looked comfortable against the short ball and, trying to turn a rising Roach delivery to leg, he got a leading edge to mid-on and was caught by Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
West Indies captain Darren Sammy then got in on the act when the medium-pacer bowled Matt Prior off an inside-edge.
Strauss, asked to explain his recent form on Saturday evening, said: “I suppose to a degree it’s confidence, but it’s a strange game — sometimes batting feels difficult, with a few runs under your belt it’s easier.”
“I’m delighted to be in form and determined to make the most of it,” he said. “You can never look too far ahead. I’ll focus on getting myself back in the morning — that’s a big enough challenge for me.”
With England still some way off a first-innings lead, Strauss joked about not adding runs to overnight centuries, saying he might have to change his routine if he was to keep on batting yesterday.
“It’s nice to feel back in form, and as a captain it’s great to contribute and lead from the front,” said Strauss, playing his 96th Test. “I’ve never got blindly drunk the night before, so maybe that’s an option.”
“There’s no reason why you can’t [kick on the next day], that will be an opportunity for me tomorrow [Sunday],” said Strauss, whose Test-best score remains the 177 he made against New Zealand in Napier in 2008.
Strauss’ 21st Test century left him just one short of the England record of 22 held jointly by Walter Hammond, Colin Cowdrey and Geoffrey Boycott.
However, Strauss played down his achievement.
“It’s a different game to those days, we play more cricket,” he said. “You only have to look at Sachin Tendulkar to realize 21 is not that many [the India great has 51 Test centuries), but it’s still nice to get them.”
Saturday proved a memorable day, too, for West Indies captain Sammy as he completed a maiden Test century after being 88 not out overnight.
The all-rounder’s place in the side has been repeatedly called into question, most recently by West Indies great Michael Holding.
“I’m playing against the No. 1 team in the world and everybody wants to perform against the best,” Sammy said. “To do that [score a century] in this Test match with the bat, it feels good for somebody like me who has been under pressure from day one.”