Alzarri Joseph struck twice and West Indies captain Jason Holder removed England stand-in skipper Ben Stokes as the tourists regained the initiative in the first Test with a late flurry of wickets at Southampton on Saturday
England were 284-8 in their second innings at the close of the fourth day, a lead of 170 runs in a match that marks international cricket’s return from lockdown.
England fought back during a fourth-wicket partnership of 98 between Zak Crawley and Stokes.
But their 249-4 was soon transformed into 279-8 as five wickets fell for just 30 runs inside the final hour.
No sooner had Stokes fallen, then Crawley was caught and bowled by paceman Joseph for a Test-best 76.
Suddenly, England’s two batsmen at the crease – Pope and Jos Buttler – were both on nought.
Buttler, who overturned being lbw to Holder for five, fell for nine when bowled through a huge gap between bat and pad by Joseph.
World Cup-winning wicketkeeper Buttler has now made just one hundred in his 42 Tests.
And there was still time before the close for Windies spearhead quick Shannon Gabriel (3-62) to bowl both Dom Bess and Ollie Pope.
England were still one run behind West Indies’ first innings 318 when Crawley came to the crease.
But the 22-year-old, in his fifth Test, completed a well-made fifty when he reverse-swept off-spinner Roston Chase for four.
Meagre first innings
Crawley, now facing the new ball, topped his previous Test best of 66 against South Africa at Johannesburg in January.
Stokes, skippering the side in the absence of Joe Root, continued to lead from the front by driving Gabriel for four.
The all-rounder had already top-scored with 43 in England’s meagre first-innings 204 before the paceman was the pick of the hosts’ attack with 4-49.
But for the second time in the match he fell to Holder.
The towering West Indies paceman squared Stokes up and had him caught by Shai Hope, cleverly positioned as the finer of two men in the gully for the left-handed batsman.
It was a tactical as well as personal triumph for Holder, ranked ahead of Stokes as the world’s leading Test all-rounder.
There was more joy for the Windies when Crawley, aiming legside, was caught and bowled by Joseph.
England resumed on 15-0 in the first of a three-match behind closed doors series.
Although a batting all-rounder, Chase had taken a Test-best 8-60 when West Indies beat England at his Barbados home ground last year en route to a 2-1 series win.
Chase made the initial breakthrough on Saturday when Rory Burns (42) carelessly cut him to backward point.
Fellow opener Dom Sibley made a painstaking fifty off 161 balls.
The very next delivery saw Sibley play on to Gabriel only for third umpire Michael Gough to rule the bowler had been guilty of a marginal no-ball.
But, two balls later, Sibley – still on 50 – glanced Gabriel to Dowrich as he was yet again caught down the legside in his fledgling Test career.
Joe Denly, potentially competing for a place with Sibley when Root returns following the birth of his daughter for next week’s second Test at Old Trafford, needed a big score to bolster a lowly Test average of under 30.
But instead he fell tamely for 29 when chipping Chase to Holder at short midwicket.
The West Indies had been on top for most of this match, with Holder taking a Test-best 6-42 after losing the toss.
Kraigg Brathwaite then made 65, the opener’s first Test fifty in 22 innings, and Dowrich 61 as the tourists established a valuable first-innings lead of 114.
No crowd, no problem
While there have been times when the behind-closed-doors environment has felt eerie and lifeless, a day when the two sides arm-wrestled for the initiative has set up what could be a grandstand finish.
England deserve credit for the way their batting improved from their first-innings 204 all out, albeit in conditions where they would have had no excuse for failing again.
There were times when West Indies were forced to retreat, but they never lost control, meaning they were only ever one or two wickets away from being on top.
Sunday morning will see England wanting to eke out as many runs as they can, but, whatever they set West Indies, all four results will be possible.
The final day will also reveal if England’s strategy of batting first and omitting Stuart Broad was correct.
By choosing to bat on a damp first day, the hosts hoped they would reap the benefit of bowling last on a dry surface that would suit the extra pace of Mark Wood and Jofra Archer, and turn for off-spinner Bess.
We will soon know if they were right.
West Indies rewarded late on
West Indies started the day in a strong position – England were 99 behind with all 10 second-innings wickets in hand.
If the tourists were hoping to ram home their advantage, they were thwarted by some dogged England resistance in lovely batting conditions.
West Indies maintained their discipline, though. All of Holder, Kemar Roach and off-spinner Roston Chase kept a lid on England’s scoring, and the rewards came.
Rory Burns was fluent for his 42 before he spooned Chase to point, Dom Sibley scored almost exclusively off his pads and was eventually caught down the leg side off Gabriel for 50, while Joe Denly’s surrender to Chase was a gift.
When Crawley and Stokes were together, West Indies began to look tired and frustrated in the heat, but found inspiration when Holder got Stokes for the second time in the match.
Joseph yorked Buttler and could have had Bess twice, only for the fiery Gabriel to swing the match in his team’s favour with a double strike.
Crawley makes his case
With captain Joe Root isolating after being at the birth of his second child, England’s choice between Kent team-mates Denly and Crawley – both part of the team that won in South Africa last winter – was delayed.
Denly, who kept his place at number three, appeared to be the man in possession, yet he failed to capitalise on another start, while Crawley went on to make the highest score of the match – and his Test career.
Denly, aged 33 and playing his 15th Test, veers from looking composed to edgy. When he tamely chipped Chase to short mid-wicket for 29 it was the sixth time in eight innings that he had passed 25 but not reached 40.
Crawley can be loose, but has youth on his side. His strokeplay is elegant, and this innings was built on on-drives, back-foot punches and the occasional reverse sweep.
He added 98 with the typically authoritative Stokes, but when Stokes pushed a Holder wide one to gully and Crawley was sharply caught and bowled by Joseph in successive overs, West Indies grabbed control.
‘It’s going to be a riveting last day’ – what they said
Former England captain Michael Vaughan on BBC Test Match Special: “I wouldn’t want to chase over 200 on this wicket. I think 171 will be difficult with England’s bowling.
“If one player gets you 60 or 70 West Indies should win the Test match.
“It’s been a terrific Test. I’ve loved it and just wish there was a crowd here to watch it.”
West Indies limited-overs all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite: “West Indies have their noses in front. They will sleep sweeter tonight than the England team would.
“I think 200 seems to be the target. Any less than that, West Indies will be happy. If not, England will feel like they have a chance. It’s just going to be a riveting last day of Test cricket.”