NORTH SOUND, Antigua and Barbuda, April 17 AFP – West Indies’ seventh-wicket pair of Denesh Ramdin and Jason Holder were holding up England’s push for victory at tea on the final day of the first Test at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua on Friday.
Set an improbable target of 438, the home side reached 6-268 at the interval with captain Ramdin and new one-day international skipper Holder both unbeaten on 48. They had come together early in the afternoon session with the cause seemingly lost after first innings centurion Jermaine Blackwood fell to medium-pacer Chris Jordan for 31.
But that was to be the tourists’ only success of the second period of play and not even the taking of the second new ball could separate the determined duo. Ramdin and Holder faced few alarms and grew in confidence as the partnership, which was worth 79 runs at the break, prospered in conditions that remain excellent for batting.
A swift afternoon capitulation appeared inevitable when the West Indies lost three important wickets in a morning session highlighted by James Anderson equalling flamboyant former all-rounder Sir Ian Botham’s mark of 383 as the most wickets by an England cricketer in Tests.
Playing his landmark 100th Test, the 32-year-old seamer drew Marlon Samuels into a loose drive for James Tredwell to take a diving catch at second slip.
Samuels’ dismissal for 23 after an hour’s play followed the demise just a few minutes earlier of the other overnight batsman, Devon Smith. Having restrained himself admirably in more than three hours at the crease, the left-handed opener miscued a lofted on-drive at Tredwell to be caught by Gary Ballance at mid-on for 65.
Tredwell, who bowled unchanged for an hour-and-a-half in the morning session, should have snared Samuels shortly after but the batsman, deceived completely by a cleverly flighted delivery, was mis-stumped by wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.
However Samuels did not make the most of the escape and when Shivnarine Chanderpaul was palpably lbw to Joe Root, who had replaced the persevering frontline off-spinner Tredwell, 15 minutes from the interval, the English celebrated the dismissal of one of their most resolute adversaries as if the match itself had been won.
As well as they have played, West Indies are still left with considerable work to do to save the match as a minimum of 31 overs can be bowled in the final session.