Jack Leach earned a six-wicket haul but England Lions are facing a long struggle to avoid defeat in their second “Test” against West Indies A in Jamaica.
Leach, who claimed eight wickets in the Lions’ opening defeat in Trelawny last week, followed up with six for 138 on the second day at Sabina Park, meaning he now has 14 for the series at an average of less than 20.
But the Somerset spinner was unable to prevent the home team posting a total of 422, for a first-innings lead of 277, on a pitch that had eased considerably from the opening day.
Jahmar Hamilton, who had been dropped on 4 off the bowling of Liam Livingstone on Sunday, made a century and Raymon Reifer was last out for 95.
That left the Lions a tricky 18-over session in the evening sunshine. Haseeb Hameed and captain Keaton Jennings came through that initial test to reach 34 without loss, with Hameed driving three stylish boundaries in a single over from the West Indies dangerman Jomel Warrican.
But with two days remaining, and another 243 required even to avoid an innings defeat, the Lions have a long way to go to keep the series alive ahead of next week’s third match in Antigua.
“It’s going to be tough, but we’ve made a good start tonight,” said Leach, who spoke after his success in Trelawny of the subtle changes he has made to his bowling approach as a result of spending the first half of the winter in Australia with the Lions.
“We’ve got to bat long obviously, but the pitch has definitely got flatter since day one. It was hard work out there today, definitely different to the first game in Trelawny where it spun throughout the whole game. Every wicket is different I guess, and it’s about adapting. It’s been a good challenge for me.”
Jennings singled out Leach for praise afterwards. “It was tough out for all of us out there today, and for Leachy to follow up the five wickets he took in the second innings in Trelawny with another six was a great effort,” said the Lions captain.
Leach claimed the important wicket of Shane Dowrich, the West Indies wicketkeeper who had made a century in the first match, as he top-edged a sweep for Nick Gubbins to collect at deep square leg.
But Reifer then joined Hamilton to put on 102 for the sixth wicket either side of lunch, until an encouraging spell from Toby Roland-Jones as he continues his comeback after injury earned another breakthrough.
Bowling with the old ball, Roland-Jones produced his most consistent overs of the tour so far, and was rewarded when Hamilton flicked a full ball to Joe Clarke at mid wicket.
Rehkeem Cornwall then joined Reifer to further frustrate the Lions until the dangerous all-rounder was bowled by Leach going for a big hit. The Lions left-arm spinner then claimed the scalp of his opposite number Warrican, efficiently stumped by debutant Alex Davies.
Paul Coughlin, who had suffered a dislocated finger making a diving stop on the first day, answered the call to try to rough up the lower order and had Jeremiah Louis caught behind, and the combination of Davies and Leach then denied Reifer what would have been the second century of his career, as the left-hander was caught behind down the leg-side by the Lancashire wicketkeeper.