Tino simply the Best for Windies
Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen prospered with the bat for England as the third Investec Test meandered towards a likely draw, but only after Tino Best had thrilled Edgbaston with a record-breaking innings of 95.
Bell and Pietersen contributed 76 and 78 respectively, the former remaining unbeaten, as the hosts recovered from the early loss of their top three to end the penultimate day on 221 for five.
However, the most enduring memories will surely be of Best’s whirlwind innings, which saw him record the highest score by a number 11 in Test history.
Having resumed on 280 for eight, West Indies lost Ravi Rampaul to Steven Finn from the third ball of the morning with only three runs added.
Best then took centre stage in sensational style, striking 14 fours and a six to cruise past the mark of 75 reached by Zaheer Khan when he came in as last man for India against Bangladesh in 2004.
As England’s bowlers struggled to keep a lid on the scoring rate, the irrepressible Barbadian unfurled a number of eye-catching drives, often holding the pose for several seconds after striking the ball.
His 112-delivery knock did feature several less elegant strokes, yet two cuts for four off Graeme Swann highlighted the prowess of a man whose previous top score in Tests was a mere 27.
Best was cruelly denied a century when he became Graham Onions’ fourth victim, ending a scarcely believable partnership of 143 with Denesh Ramdin that carried the Windies to 426 all out.
West Indies’ wicketkeeper-batsman was left unbeaten on 107, having celebrated his second Test hundred by revealing a message - Yea Viv Talk Nah - that appeared to represent a response to criticism from the great Sir Viv Richards.
Ramdin’s worthy contribution was nonetheless overshadowed by the entertaining efforts of his 10th-wicket partner, who was afforded rapturous applause as he left the field at the end of his innings.
The tourists soon had further reason for cheer when Alastair Cook fell lbw to Rampaul and Jonathan Trott played on to Darren Sammy inside the first 11 overs of England’s reply.
Best then made an impact with the ball when he had Andrew Strauss caught at first slip for 17, but Pietersen and Bell shared 137 to steady the ship.
Eager to dominate whenever possible, Pietersen cruised along at almost a run-a-ball and appeared set to reach three figures before being caught at slip off Marlon Samuels.
Bell received a hint of good fortune on 20, when Adrian Barath put down a sharp chance at short-leg off debutant spinner Sunil Narine.
England’s number five was barely troubled thereafter and produced a series of cultured strokes to boost his chances of becoming the first Warwickshire batsman to compile a Test hundred at this venue.
Although Bell and Pietersen impressed, it was Best, somewhat fittingly, who made the final impact as he bowled Jonny Bairstow for 18 to claim his second scalp.
Strauss’ men trailed by 205 at stumps and still required a further 56 to avoid the follow-on due to the first two days being wiped out by rain.
Yet with only 98 overs remaining in the match, and further showers forecast for the final day, the outcome of the match appeared inevitable.
7:28pm - STUMPS - Eng 221/5; Bell 76, Finn 0 - Finn offers a fine exhibition of blocking as England make it through to the end of the day with five wickets still in hand. They still need 56 to avoid the follow-on, but that could be immaterial if more rain arrives, as predicted, tomorrow. Fine performances from Bell and Pietersen today, but one man stood out...and his name is Tino.
7:22pm - Narine is back into the attack and we have two more overs to come after this one.
7:12pm - WICKET! Bairstow b Best 18; Eng 215/5 - It has been Best’s day and he has another wicket to show for his efforts. Bairstow plays around one a full one and the ball clatters into the stumps. Steven Finn comes in as nightwatchman.
7:06pm - Ooh yes, that is an immaculate cover-drive from Bell. Ten fours now for one of the most elegant batsmen in world cricket. Bairstow follows his partner's lead with a classy cut stroke off Samuels.
7pm - Bairstow takes England to 200 by clipping a quicker delivery from Samuels to the square-leg rope.
6:52pm - That will boost Bairstow’s confidence; a glorious on-drive off Samuels results in his first four. Bell has slowed down at the other end, but has the chance to become the first Warwickshire batsman to score a Test hundred at Edgbaston. He currently has 64 to his name.
6:42pm - Jonny Bairstow joins Bell and will be keen to see out the remainder of the day in only his third Test. Rampaul comes around the wicket to the young Yorkshireman and it looks as though we will see plenty of short stuff.
6:35pm - WICKET! Pietersen c Sammy b Samuels 78; Eng 186/4 - Now there’s a surprise. After beating Pietersen with one that held its line, Samuels strikes with his next ball. Pietersen looked to push into the off side but edged to slip, where Darren Sammy took a fine catch diving to his right.
6:32pm - Pietersen, now unbeaten on 78 from 79 deliveries, helps himself to another four as Samuels drops short. Rampaul takes over from Best and soon falls victim to Bell's magnificent back cut.
6:25pm - Pantomime stuff from Tino, who hints at throwing the ball back in Bell’s direction after the batsman had patted a delivery back down the wicket. A bouncer - and a somewhat predictable stare - follows.
6:19pm - Best thinks he has Bell caught behind, but no-one else is interested. Pietersen advances down the pitch to loft Narine over long-on for six and the slow bowler is then pulled dismissively through midwicket for four more.
6:12pm - Pietersen has not been affected by the second break. He drives Narine through the off side for four to move to 61. West Indies’ new spinner has flattered to deceive a little here after an encouraging start.
6:04pm - The teams emerge once more. Best to resume from the Birmingham End, with eight overs having been lost in that break.
6pm - Here come the umpires again. Looks as though we are going to get some more play after all!
5:48pm - You have to wonder whether we have seen our last action today. Hard to see the light improving much at this hour, although it does once again seem fairly bright in the distance.
5:31pm – BAD LIGHT STOPPED PLAY - Dear oh dear, we are heading off again. England have plundered runs at a healthy rate in the last half-hour, but it would appear the light has deteriorated.
5:26pm - 100 PARTNERSHIP - A rare false shot from Pietersen heralds the century stand. He attempts a pull off Best, but succeeds only in top-edging the ball over the head of the wicketkeeper.
5:24pm - FIFTY! Pietersen (59b 7x4 0x6) - From the next ball, Pietersen clips Best through midwicket for two to move to 51. Both batsmen looking great right now.
5:23pm - FIFTY! Bell (79b 8x4 0x6) - Bell beats his partner to a half-century - his 32nd in Tests - with a single down to fine-leg off Tino Best, who is back into the attack from the Birmingham End.
5:17pm - It has been all about Bell since the resumption. A textbook cover-driven four off Rampaul is followed by an elegant back cut. Anyone who knows me will be aware of just how much I love that shot. A confident pull makes it 13 from the over and Bell now has 46 to Kevin Pietersen’s 48.
5:13pm - Sunil Narine is wheeling away from the Pavilion End now. An increasingly assured Bell advances down the wicket and picks the gap to the right of mid-on to gain his fifth four.
5:09pm - I am reliably informed we can now play up until 7:30pm tonight to fit in the remaining 35 overs. Ian Bell appears to be seeing the ball well enough; he has just pulled Rampaul for four to move to 25. England’s number five then angles one down to third man for another boundary.
5:01pm - Ah good, the players are being summoned back on to the field. Play will resume shortly.
4:50pm - Now the umpires have made their way off. I will update you as soon as there is more news.
4:48pm - Umpires Kumar Dharmasena and Tony Hill have yet to leave the field, which suggests they are hopeful of play resuming. For the time being, though, there is no change in the situation.
4:44pm - With all the time already lost to rain in this match - and more showers forecast for tomorrow - this is very frustrating. We now need to see an improvement in the light if there is to be any further action this evening. It looks a little brighter in the distance.
4:37pm - BAD LIGHT STOPPED PLAY; Eng 113/3 - Bad news - after one over from Samuels the players are heading off due to bad light. Not a popular decision from the umpires. It looked as though they were waiting to see if Darren Sammy would bring another spinner on from the Birmingham End. Once Ravi Rampaul handed over his cap, the teams were ushered from the field.
4:31pm - Ready for the off again at Edgbaston and Marlon Samuels will get us under way from the Pavilion End.
4:11pm -TEA - Eng 111/3; Pietersen 45, Bell 20 - That will be tea. England got off to a shaky start with the bat, but Pietersen, who has just collected his sixth and seventh fours with elegant strokes either side of the wicket off Narine, and Bell have played confidently to steady the ship. Let’s hope the rain stays away this evening.
4:06pm – DROPPED CATCH - There has been little to trouble Bell or Pietersen, but the former has just been given a life. In fairness to Adrian Barath, he would have had to react superbly to take the low chance that has just been offered up at short-leg off Narine. He did get his hands to it though...
4:01pm - Bell benefits from some lovely footwork as he rocks back to cut Narine square of the wicket for three. Sammy is operating with a one-day style field to Pietersen, who beats the man at cover with another confident drive. England now 100 for three and these two have added 51 in good time.
3:51pm - Pietersen offers further evidence of his good form with a powerful cover-driven four off Narine. Steady progress so far from England’s fourth-wicket pair, who have added 42 since Strauss’ departure.
3:43pm - Best is taking another rest, so Sammy returns from the Pavilion End. Pietersen, who has looked assured since arriving at the crease, drags one wide of mid-on from outside off stump to earn three. Plenty of interest here in Narine’s subtle variations, but Bell punishes the spinner for over-pitching by bunting one down the ground for four.
3:35pm - A first four for Bell, who puts away a full toss from Best with a neat push into the covers. England need 277 to avoid the follow-on after the first two days were lost to rain. They are 70 for three at present.
3:28pm - Pietersen is credited with a four, although, in truth, he got nowhere near the ball as Narine got one to spin down the leg side. No doubt about whether bat is involved for the next boundary though, as England’s number four eases Narine through square-leg with confidence. Meanwhile, I am afraid it is getting cloudier.
3:19pm - With England in a position of minor peril, here comes Narine. Not a bad start from the spinner, who wastes little time in showing us his ‘knuckle ball’.
3:10pm - WICKET! Strauss c Bravo b Best 17; Eng 49/3 - I may have to take the blame for this - Best strikes! The seamer gets one to bounce a little more than Strauss was expecting and Darren Bravo clings on to a fine catch at first slip.
3:09pm - Time for a drink here. With rain forecast for tomorrow a draw appears inevitable, but England will not want to lose another wicket in the near future. Hang on, Tino's back...
2:59pm - Best has earned himself quite a following here, and why not? He gets a huge cheer when fielding at long leg. Strauss unbeaten on 17 now, while new man Kevin Pietersen has just punched Sammy through the covers to move to five. The floodlights are now in operation, but it is not too gloomy out there just yet.
2:50pm - WICKET! Trott b Sammy 17; Eng 40/2 - England are in a little bit of a pickle now as Trott plays on looking to cut Sammy. A pretty loose stroke that one.
2:47pm - Windies skipper Darren Sammy takes over from Best at the Pavilion End. Trott clips the final ball of his first over through midwicket for four. How many times have we seen that shot over the last couple of years? Strauss then plants his front foot and thumps Rampaul to the cover rope.
2:39pm - DROPPED CATCH - Best is giving it everything, but, as of yet, he has yet to follow up his batting heroics with further success. Trott cuts a loose delivery from Rampaul for four to move into double figures, but is then put down by Ramdin after gloving one down the leg side. That said, it would have been one hell of a catch.
2:31pm - It should not be forgotten that West Indies can call upon the mystery spin of Sunil Narine this afternoon. I am certainly not the only person who is looking forward to seeing how the Trinidadian performs on Test debut. All pace for the time being though and England are 20 for one.
2:26pm - Jonathan Trott gets off the mark in confident fashion. After leaving a succession of short balls from Best, the Warwickshire batsman drives a pitched-up delivery back past the bowler for the first four of the innings.
2:20pm - WICKET! Cook lbw Rampaul 4; Eng 13/1 - After excelling with the bat this morning, the Windies now have a breakthrough with the ball. Cook plays across the line to a full one from Rampaul and is trapped leg before. The left-hander’s decision to call for a review proves misguided.
2:15pm - Strauss may have just got a nick to one down the leg side off Best, but it matters not as the ball did not carry to wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin. Later in the over, a thigh-high full toss narrowly evades the England captain.
2:06pm - Best begins with a no-ball, before Andrew Strauss – twice a centurion in this series - gets off the mark in unconvincing fashion with an edge past gully for three. Alastair Cook is also underway with a single. Ravi Rampaul will share the new ball from the Birmingham End.
2pm - We were treated to the Tino Best show at Edgbaston this morning. Well, the afternoon session is about to get under way and guess who has the ball in his hand?!
1:20pm - WICKET!!! Best c Strauss b Onions 95; WI 426 all out - Oh no, Tino!! Edgbaston’s new hero skies one over the slips off Onions, but Strauss runs back to take a simple catch. Huge disappointment around the ground, even from those supporting England. The end of a truly special knock and Best is rightfully cheered as he makes his way from the field. That will be lunch.
1:18pm - An lbw appeal from Trott against Ramdin, but it looked as though the batsman got outside the line. West Indies now 424 for nine, Best on 93.
1:14pm - Tino progresses into the nineties. It is worth reminding you that no number 11 has ever compiled a Test century. We could be about to witness history. As a side note, Alex Tudor made 99 not out as a nightwatchman on this ground.
1:08pm - Trott actually looks the most likely source of a wicket here. Best slices one out to deep point, but the ball lands just short of Jonny Bairstow, running in from the rope. The record 10th-wicket stand in Test cricket is 151, this partnership is now worth 135...
1:04pm - Finn is now operating from round the wicket, with plenty of short stuff being doled out to Best. Still no wicket, however, and Tino moves to 88 with a slash over point for his 14th four. England's players start to troop off for lunch, but they cannot go anywhere yet. Play continues.
12:57pm - Jonathan Trott into the attack on his home ground and he beats Best with a beauty outside off stump. Lunch can be delayed by up to half an hour if West Indies’ 10th-wicket pair remain at the crease.
12:52pm - You have to feel sorry for poor old Kirk Edwards. Dropped for this match after scoring just 20 runs in eight innings on tour, he has just been sent out to the middle to deliver a chest-guard to Best, who is 82 not out.
12:47pm - I never thought I would be typing this, but I suppose the next question is 'can Tino get a maiden hundred?’ In reaching 76 with a cut for four off Bresnan, he has just overtaken Zaheer Khan to register the highest Test score by a number 11. A stunning straight six follows. This is truly remarkable.
12:40pm - It appears the message on Ramdin's piece of paper was "Yea Viv Talk Nah" - an apparent response to criticism from the legendary Sir Viv Richards. An interesting man to target...
12:38pm - CENTURY! Ramdin (160b 9x4 0x6) - There it is! Ramdin brings up his second Test hundred - both of which have come against England - with a clip into the leg side off Bresnan. He throws down his bat and gloves before taking a piece of paper out of his pocket and waving it in the air. Not sure what the message was, but Best then celebrates by smearing one over cow corner for four.
12:25pm - 100 PARTNERSHIP! - Ramdin moves into the nineties with a sweetly-timed leg glance off the returning Finn. A flick to the fine-leg boundary then brings up the century stand. Believe it or not, the senior man in this partnership is now being urged on by Best, who is unbeaten on 66.
12:19pm - It is almost difficult to believe what we are witnessing here. I am not sure Best will be batting at number 11 again after this. He is now driving down the ground with a great deal of panache on a regular basis. The 10th-wicket partnership is nearing three figures and there is no sign of it ending.
12:10pm - Still no breakthrough for England. Best appears to have settled down somewhat since reaching 50, while Ramdin is looking increasingly assured as he closes in on a second Test ton.
11:58am - Swann comes round the wicket to Best and immediately induces a play-and-miss. The more reserved Ramdin, meanwhile, has become the top-scorer in the innings with 77 not out, although at this rate he may be overtaken by his partner, who has 55.
11:49am - FIFTY! Best (44b 10x4 0x6) - Tim Bresnan on from the Pavilion End, but he cannot prevent Best from becoming only the second West Indian number 11 to make a half-century in Test cricket. Exuberant celebrations from Tino, and who can blame him?! Great entertainment!
11:44am - Graeme Swann is introduced in place of Onions. Best responds with two glorious cuts for four, his best shots of the morning. The Barbadian is now unbeaten on 45, with West Indies having moved on to 336 for nine. This stand is worth 53 and Ramdin has contributed eight.
11:37am - DROPPED CATCH - Fair to say that is not what England need. Ramdin cuts Finn to gully, but Kevin Pietersen puts down a sharp chance. That’s the fourth drop of this innings.
11:33am - I imagine a few people are enjoying this cameo from Best, who lofts Onions down the ground and over cover for his sixth and seventh fours. Andrew Strauss may not be quite so delighted...
11:25am - England will not be happy about this. Best finds the boundary again, although this time Onions is unlucky as an edge flies between the slips and gully. The next ball is then diverted through the same gap and Best has his highest Test score.
11:16am - Four more for Best, courtesy of a flashing swipe through cover off Finn. A more classical drive, this time off Onions, takes him to 20 from 14 balls!
11:11am - That’s more like it from Best. He clubs a Finn half-volley down the ground for four and holds the pose! Frustratingly for England, he is already into double figures. West Indies just five shy of 300 now.
11:06am - For those of you wondering if Tino still likes a slog, the answer is yes. After getting off the mark in Finn’s opening over, he has just aimed an almighty heave at Graham Onions, although he didn’t come close to connecting with the ball.
11:02am - WICKET! Rampaul c Prior b Finn 2; WI 283/8 - That didn’t take long. Denesh Ramdin drills the first ball of the day down the ground for three, but Steven Finn strikes two balls later when Ravi Rampaul feathers an edge through to Matt Prior. Here comes Tino Best!
10:59am - The players are out in the middle and day four (even though it only feels like day two) is about to begin. Steven Finn with the ball in his hand from the Pavilion End.
10:50am - Samuels may have top-scored for the Windies yesterday, but Denesh Ramdin managed to sneak through to stumps virtually unnoticed on 60 not out. The wicketkeeper-batsman’s only Test century came against England in Barbados three years ago. He will require support from Ravi Rampaul and last man Tino Best if he is to have a chance of reaching three figures this morning.
10:45am - Not long now until the action gets under way. A positive result appears somewhat unlikely at this stage, particularly with further showers forecast for tomorrow, but who knows? There is still a lot of cricket to be played, with another 98 overs scheduled for today.
10:40am - If you are in the area and fancy a day of Test cricket, tickets are available on the gate or at edgbaston.com, priced at £43 for adults and £15 for Under-16s. What’s more, if you buy a ticket for today, you get a free one for tomorrow!
10:25am - Two players made the headlines yesterday. Marlon Samuels continued his stunning form for West Indies with a cultured innings of 76, while Graham Onions – in his first Test appearance since January 2010 – was the pick of England’s attack with 3-56. You can read both men’s thoughts here.
10:20am - Good morning once again from Edgbaston, where the sun is shining brightly! Play will resume in the third and final Investec Test at 11am, with West Indies 280 for eight in their first innings.