Broad keeps Windies in check
England mounted a valiant fightback with the ball to limit West Indies’ lead in the opening Test at Sabina Park.
Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan celebrated fine centuries this morning before Stuart Broad sparked a collapse that saw four wickets fall for just 34 runs.
From a commanding 220 for one to 254 for five - in response to England’s 318 - West Indies’ position had been weakened considerably, but Brendan Nash marshalled the middle and lower order sufficiently to take the hosts into the black.
His dogged unbeaten 47 helped them close the third day in Jamaica on 352 for seven, an advantage of 34 which leaves England as slight second favourites to win this game, whatever the perils of West Indies batting last on a pitch offering increasing turn and showing ever more variable bounce.
Among the England players, Broad emerged with the greatest credit, claiming the prized wickets of Gayle, for a fine 104, and the limpet-like Shivnarine Chanderpaul either side of Xavier Marshall’s dismissal.
He took 3-25 in 16 overs today, the pick of an improved bunch of bowlers whose disciplined performance means England will take to the field tomorrow with realistic hopes of keeping West Indies to under 400.
As admirable as England’s response was to a poor display yesterday, West Indies appeared destined to open up a lead following Gayle and Sarwan’s mammoth stand for the second wicket, which stood at 148 overnight and had reached 202 in more than 71 overs by the time it was broken by Broad before lunch.
Though Andrew Flintoff once again bowled a testing spell this morning, both batsmen coped admirably with the odd ball misbehaving during the morning session.
As yesterday, the referral system caused the most debate until Broad’s intervention on the stroke of lunch.
England captain Andrew Strauss appeared to mount an appeal after Ryan Sidebottom had an lbw shout turned down by Tony Hill, only to change his mind after input from wicketkeeper Matt Prior.
Gayle was correct in calling for the use of video technology moments later when he was given out caught behind down the leg side off Flintoff.
Replays, though far from conclusive, suggested the ball clipped trousers rather than glove, and - not for the first time in this match - Hill reversed his decision.
Sarwan scampered a risky single to become the youngest West Indian to score 5,000 in Tests, moments before Gayle launched an assault on Monty Panesar, racing to within sight of three figures with successive sixes over long-on.
A deft sweep took him to his ninth Test century - and his first on his home ground, hence passionate celebrations hardly in keeping with his usual super-cool demeanour. He had faced 182 balls and struck five fours and five sixes.
Gayle was eventually bowled via an inside edge playing back to a delivery which kept low, and Marshall, who survived a strong shout for lbw first ball, was trapped on the crease by the next to give England hope heading into the afternoon session.
That optimism grew when Sarwan, attempting to cut a ball too close to his body, played on to the tireless Flintoff for 107, 11 runs having been scored in 12 overs after lunch.
Chanderpaul and Nash did little to improve a pedestrian run-rate, and England were rewarded again for their discipline when Broad nipped one back with the new ball - taken belatedly by Strauss - to pin a shuffling Chanderpaul in front of his stumps for 20. The almost inevitable referral failed.
Denesh Ramdin gave the crowd something to cheer with three gloriously timed drives before tea, and he contributed 35 to a 66-run stand for the sixth wicket that encompassed West Indies surpassing England’s total.
Two uppercut fours in a Flintoff over aside, Nash - born in Australia of Jamaican parentage - showed few signs of aggression, but he remained dutifully anchored to his crease despite seeing Ramdin edge Panesar to Paul Collingwood at slip.
England were further buoyed by the late demise of Jerome Taylor, leg before offering no stroke to Steve Harmison.
Nash’s continued presence - he had faced 146 balls when stumps were drawn - provided a telling reminder that West Indies still hold the upper hand, although their grip is somewhat looser than this time yesterday.