Today was rather better from an English point of view. (It was an incredibly frustrating one from a Lancastrian point of view, but that’s a different post.) The West Indies did better in the morning than I thought they might have, but they still did not look like they had done enough with their 370 all out. To be fair, it was always going to be incredibly difficult to get back into contention after their start, but they really did not help themselves. Sammy and Samuels actually saw off the first burst in the morning and Sammy got (a bit streakily) to a very well played and richly deserved hundred. But then when it looked like England were not going to be able to stop them from getting up to a good total, the West Indies appeared to decide to up the pace a bit. Given that it was only the second morning and they were still not yet in a particularly strong position it is a very questionable decision. Sammy probably just reverted to is usual type after bringing up his ton, but Samuels made little effort to shepherd the tail. Given how patient he had been all series, it was rather surprising to say the least. Tim Bresnan was the main beneficiary and ended up taking four wickets. To say his figures are misleading would be a massive understatement.
The West Indies really shot themselves in the foot when they were bowling, however. Twice Kemar Roach got Cook caught off a no-ball and seemed to lose it mentally shortly thereafter. He was never able to completely settle and the West Indies were effectively without their main strike bowler for most of the day. Ravi Rampaul did do a decent job in his stead: getting the ball to swing and taking the wickets of both Cook and Trott. But he could only bowl so much and Sammy’s heroics with the bat did not transfer over to the ball. He is a useful fourth seamer and a borderline third seamer, but he is not close to being good enough to be effectively the second seamer. This just left the spinner, Shane Shillingford, who was very poor. KP smashed him for six down the ground and from there he just seemed unsure of what to do. He (and actually all the West Indies bowlers to some extent) dragged the ball far too short and wide to Strauss and anyone even passingly familiar with how the England captain likes to bat can tell you not to give him balls to cut. Sammy and Shillingford both went for over four and a half runs per over and were between them responsible for 15 of Strauss’ 18 fours and seven of KP’s 11 boundaries. It meant that the evening session was quite similar to the one last night with the batsmen scoring almost at will and the bowlers looking like they had no answer. The difference is that England already had a decent platform. Strauss and KP’s unbeaten partnership has already brought England to within a Nelson of the West Indies and with eight wickets in hand.
The West Indies will have to work hard to come back tomorrow. To be fair they did so at Lord’s so it is far from impossible, but it is a big ask. Strauss has a history of going cheaply in the morning after being not out overnight so they will fancy their chances to remove him. KP tried very hard to give his wicket away at times this evening and may get himself out early tomorrow as well. There is a danger for the West Indies if he gets himself set, however, as he looked in a mood to really take the attack to the bowling. Even if the West Indies do remove the two not out batsmen early tomorrow, they will still have Ian Bell with whom to deal. Bell looked in excellent form at Lord’s and can dominate an attack just as well as KP, but in a more understated way. Bairstow will have a chance to show that he can score runs at Test level, if in relatively easy circumstances, and I think he has the skill to take that chance. After that come Prior, Bresnan, Broad and Swann. All of whom can add quite a few quick runs against an attack that is tiring and the West Indies attack already look tired. None of this is to say that the West Indies cannot or will not keep England close, but to say they will have to put in a much better effort than they did today. They cannot take wickets with no balls and they cannot bowl to batsmen’s strengths! If they cannot improve they will be looking at a huge first innings deficit.