England bounce back after West Indies show quality

August 29, 2017

England bounced back strongly on the fourth day to turn around the direction of the Headingley Test , following three days of West Indian dominance.

After bowling England out for 258 on the first day, the Caribbean side slipped to 35-3 on the second morning in overcast conditions tailor-made for James Anderson's swing bowling. 

However, with opener Kraigg Brathwaite twice successfully overturning lbw decisions and the other England seamers failing to back Anderson up, the tourists weathered the storm. When afternoon came, the ball was older and the weather sunny, conditions that Brathwaite and Shai Hope cashed in on.

With Brathwaite making 134 and Hope 147, the West Indies set themselves up for a big lead and although Anderson took wickets from the first two balls of Sunday's play, a dropped catch by Moeen Ali shortly afterwards enabled captain Jason Holder to hit a belligerent 43, adding to 49 from Jermaine Blackwood.

England needed a strong response to stay in the game, and it came through Mark Stoneman's first Test half century. His 52 was particularly vital after Alastair Cook fell for 23 and Tom Westley was dismissed for only eight for the second time in the match. 

Starting the fourth day just two runs in front at 171-3, England batted deep as Joe Root made 72, Dawid Malan a painstaking 186-ball 61 and Ben Stokes 58. However, they were only 158 ahead when Jonny Bairstow was seventh man out.

Thankfully for England, they still had Moeen at eight and Chris Woakes at nine. Moeen hit a brilliant 84 from only 93 balls and Woakes an unbeaten 61 as England declared 321 ahead with six overs left. The score of 490-8 declared was the highest England had ever made without a player making a century, while the partnership between Moeen and Woakes of 117 equalled the highest for England for the eighth wicket at Headingley. That came in a match when England had been in even deeper trouble, following on against Australia in 1981 before Ian Botham and Graham Dilley paved the way for Test cricket's most unlikely victory.

Today (August 29th) will be a severe Test for the West Indians, as England hunt down a series-clinching win. Having been ahead of the game until late in the fourth day, defeat would be galling after a side so heavily criticised demonstrated that they do have plenty of talent and determination after all. 

For fans booking corporate hospitality for the upcoming one-day international at the Kia Oval, this is good news. The competitiveness of the West Indies in Leeds may suggest that Edgbaston was something of an aberration for the team, albeit far from unique for them in recent years. Moreover, even if they do lose today and even end up defeated 3-0 in the series by losing the final Test at Lord's early next month, the fact is that the West Indies have a better white ball side than in red ball cricket. This is particularly true when Chris Gayle is in the team, with the big-hitting superstar owner now back in the squad along with all-rounder Marlon Samuels.

As for England, today could produce a moment of history as James Anderson needs three more wickets to reach 500 in Tests.

Image: Getty, from Keith Prowse subscription

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