Powell ton boosts Windies
Kieran Powell registered the first hundred of West Indies’ tour - and only the second of his first-class career - to lead the fightback against England Lions at Wantage Road.
Powell shared back-to-back century stands with Darren Bravo and then Shivnarine Chanderpaul as West Indies defied expectations that they might end this match with a whimper.
Instead, on day three of four, they lost just five wickets to close on 377 for eight - with a lead of 183, after yesterday conceding a mammoth first-innings deficit of 194.
Opener Powell showed great determination as well as a workable range of strokes in a 235-ball 108 which contained 13 fours, and a straight six off Joe Root’s off-spin.
He reached three figures with an ungainly swept boundary off Samit Patel, one of the uglier shots in his innings but one which was nonetheless followed by due and enthusiastic celebration.
It was also a prime example of how Powell and Chanderpaul, who contributed 77, milked the spin at both ends from Root and Patel while Lions captain James Taylor awaited the second new ball.
In those circumstances, it was a telling moment when Patel got his revenge - bowling Powell middle-stump as the left-hander miscalculated a flatter delivery which turned.
Bravo, on his way to his second fifty of the match, and Powell had shut the Lions out throughout the morning session - which the tourists began on a far from encouraging 28 for three.
Each of the fourth-wicket pair was dropped once in the teens. Powell survived when Nick Compton could not hang on to a tough chance low to his right at third slip off Matt Coles and Bravo then mis-timed a drive at Stuart Meaker straight to gully, where Root missed a regulation catch.
Otherwise, the Lions rarely came close to a breakthrough on a pitch which had begun to provide occasional low bounce from the Lynn Wilson End.
Bravo and Powell therefore needed to be watchful, but were able to pick off the score balls.
It was Bravo who narrowly beat the opener to his half-century, with an aerial drive down the ground off Patel for his ninth four from the 76th ball he faced.
Bravo was then dropped for a second time, on 51, after offering a very difficult half-chance away to Ian Bell’s left at slip off Patel.
But he was gone anyway in the second over after lunch, when he contrived to deflect an attempted glance at Jack Brooks, who claimed 3-46, down on to leg stump.
Chanderpaul was always likely to be tough to shift for the Lions, though, and he and Powell kept the bowlers at bay for 34 overs until the latter was undone shortly before tea.
The world’s number one batsman comfortably survived his partner, and was pushing the Windies into useful credit by the time he mis-judged a ball from Stuart Meaker that straightened to have him lbw playing no shot.
A previously unlikely final day of action was already assured by then, but it took a fourth significant contribution of the innings, from Marlon Samuels, to put the outcome of the context back in serious doubt.
Samuels, one of the Windies’ three late arrivals on this tour following his travel delays from the Indian Premier League, played in this match ahead of fellow Lord’s Test candidate Narsingh Deonarine - who took even longer to make it here from Guyana via Jamaica because of visa issues.
Samuels put his name in the frame too, dominating a stand of 65 with Denesh Ramdin, during which there was a reprise of yesterday’s joust with Jade Dernbach.
Samuels taunted Dernbach last night when the tailender was on the end of some aggressive short and fast bowling from Fidel Edwards.
Dernbach had the last laugh then, as he and Taylor added frustrating late runs. But this time, it was Samuels who held sway - taking Dernbach for 15 runs from five balls, including a six pulled over wide long-on - after which the seamer was taken off.
Samuels eventually fell to another attempted pull, mistiming Coles to mid-on - but by then, it was definitely ’game on’ for tomorrow.