Today was a blisteringly hot day at the cricket. However, it started out looking for from auspicious on the weather front. Breakfast was eaten in the face of torrential rain hammering down from all sides of the open dining area.
Thankfully the weather abated in time for Joe Root and Gary Ballance to continue their excellent partnership from last night. The two looked in complete control against a West Indies side that already appeared resigned to waiting for the English declaration.
By the time Root had chopped on to his stumps for the second time in the match, England were well in control and ready to spring a brutal attack to extend their lead quickly.
With Ben Stokes and Joss Buttler occupying the six and seven positions in the batting line-up, they were well positioned to do so. Stokes batted similarly well to his first innings, cutting and pulling with aplomb and offering a straight bat when driving. After lunch he simply let his head get carried away, taking a wild walk down the wicket and a hack across the line against the innocuous left arm spin of Sulieman Benn. Buttler continued on his merry way though, and raced to a fifty at a run a ball. His sixes were pretty monstrous, as he provided the bulk of the entertainment for the first half of the day.
All the while, Ballance continued on his untroubled way to registering his fourth Test century. At times it can appear that he is too reliant on cutting the ball behind point, but today he was able to get his driving in order too, and looked a more complete batsman as a result.
England declared on 333/7 to leave the West Indies 438 for victory; in truth they pulled out far earlier than I expected. I envisaged the side batting on much closer to tea, but was more than happy when they declared with 40 overs left in the day. The pitch is flat at the Viv Richards Stadium, and the outfield slow too, it is highly unlikely that the West Indies will get anywhere near the 438 they need.
As England set into their bowling task, I spent most of my afternoon explaining the fielding positions and England players to my girlfriend, and first time Test viewer. You really do realise how ridiculous the names for the positions are, when you have somebody approaching the game fresh, an attempting to think rationally. If anybody can tell me why ‘slips’ are called slips, then I will be much obliged.
Anyway, England chipped away, and Root picked up a vital second wicket just before the close. The catch from Chris Jordan was even better than his stunner in the first innings. I have been pretty unimpressed with his bowling in this Test, but his slip catching has been excellent, and he looks increasingly assured in the position.
Whilst England were toiling for that second wicket, the crowd became a little restless; a combination of slow play, the hot weather, and plenty of beer taking it’s toll. The Barmy Army struck up their vocal cords for the first time this week, and a man I can only describe as rotund, was strutting his stuff alongside the dancers on the stage.
In all, a brilliantly absorbing day’s Test cricket, in near perfect conditions. Tomorrow is also well poised, England needing 8 wickets to win, and the West Indies needing a further 340 runs, or more likely attempting to bat out the day to draw the first Test of this series. It might even convince my girlfriend to go again tomorrow…