Windies make their move
West Indies continued to set the early standard in the Test series against England as the tourists endured a trying second day at Sabina Park.
Resuming on 236 for five and harbouring genuine hopes of posting a challenging total in the first Test, England lost their last five wickets in little over a session as they were bowled out for 318.
Their total did not reflect the difficulties of scoring freely on a surface offering encouragement to the new-ball bowlers and spinners alike, not to mention a stodgy outfield.
But Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan pressed home the advantage provided by West Indies’ bowlers by batting for more than half the day, carrying them to 160 for one by the close.
That repesents a far more manageable deficit of 158, which leaves the hosts firmly in the ascendancy approaching what promises to be a pivotal third day in Jamaica.
As well as Gayle and Sarwan played in making 71 and 74 not out respectively - their second-wicket partnership currently stands at 142 - England will take the field tomorrow aware they must improve on a bowling display that, though by no means poor, was some way short of their best.
The West Indies attack, on the other hand, could be more than content with their day's work.
Having struck twice inside the first 10 overs yesterday to account for both England openers, they performed a similar trick this morning with the new ball.
Andrew Flintoff failed to add to his overnight 43 and Stuart Broad made little impact, while Matt Prior’s departure for a composed 64 further tilted the balance of power towards West Indies.
Steve Harmison and Monty Panesar fell in quick succession after lunch - both failed with referrals against lbw decisions - as left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn brought the innings to a conclusion to end with figures of 4-77 from 44.2 overs.
Though Benn, who bowled 33 overs on the first day, was trusted with the first over this morning, it was the seamers who posed the greater threat on a pitch offering noticeably more bounce than 24 hours earlier.
Having beaten Flintoff’s outside edge with his first delivery, which climbed from just short of a length, Daren Powell found extra lift two balls later to have the all-rounder, cutting, taken at backward point by Brendan Nash.
Broad fell shortly after for four, undone by a well-executed Jerome Taylor slower ball which he edged to Benn at gully as he played slightly across the line.
Prior, however, continued to bat with the assurance which marked his innings yesterday evening, showing the full face of the bat to the seamers and making use of the gaps which gradually began to open up in the field.
That a rare false stroke - a thick outside edge - took him to 50, off 84 balls, should not detract from the quality of Prior’s innings, the highlight of which was a superb on-driven boundary at Powell’s expense.
He perished advancing down the track to drive, although Benn deserves credit for varying his approach - he delivered the ball from well behind the popping crease - not to mention a sharp return catch.
Ryan Sidebottom, dropped by Shivnarine Chanderpaul running over his shoulder at cover when he had made just six, mixed dogged defence with the occasional cover drive as he led England’s lower-order resistance, but he was left stranded on 26 after Harmison and Panesar were trapped in front by Taylor and Benn respectively.
England enjoyed early success with the ball courtesy of Flintoff, although it took a referral to convince umpire Tony Hill that the ball had pitched in line with leg stump as Smith, clearly failing to pick the ball up, was struck on the back leg offering no stroke.
With just five to his name, Sarwan was adjudged leg before to Harmison, but the batsman was successful in his appeal despite a lack of television evidence to overwhelmingly refute Hill’s original decision.
It proved a crucial moment, for Sarwan and Gayle, who signalled his intent by swatting Flintoff’s second delivery over long-on for six before hooking Harmison into the midwicket stand, embarked on what threatens to be the pivotal partnership of the match.
Though Gayle settled down to bat with a composure more in keeping with his status as captain, he provided occasional glimpses of his power, most memorably when driving Panesar nonchalantly back over long-off for six.
He reached a 70-ball half-century shortly after, having struck two fours to complement those three maximums, and Sarwan took West Indies into three figures with a gloriously timed straight drive off the largely ineffective Panesar.
Noticeably growing in confidence as England’s attack tired, Sarwan went to his fifty, which spanned 110 deliveries and contained six fours, with a controlled hook off Harmison.
It reflected the control he and Gayle exerted over the England bowlers for much of the day.