Lower-order might helps England turn the tables on Windies
Lower-order might helps England turn the tables on Windies
Part of Test cricket’s enduring quality is in how fortunes can fluctuate wildly during games. The fourth day at Headingley had begun with the match evenly poised but England, who had been under the cosh for most of the first three days, ended up declaring 321 runs ahead and well in control. Windies survived a tricky six-over spell before the close but despite the pitch playing better this afternoon, the men from the Caribbean have a mightily difficult task ahead of them on the final day.
It could have been far better for Windies. Again they dropped catches which allowed England to post 490 for 8 in their third innings. Had those chances been taken, the visitors would have been chasing perhaps 170. Dawid Malan, who scored 61, was put down by Keiran Powell at first slip when he had 32, Kyle Hope dropped Johnny Bairstow, admittedly a tough chance, and Moeen Ali was caught behind off a no-ball. As well as Windies batsmen and bowlers have done in this match, their fielding has probably cost them victory.
Their bowlers had bowled themselves to a standstill by the end of England’s innings. It was a dejected team which walked off the pitch, having toiled for 141 overs and seen a winning position turn into, in all likelihood, a losing one. Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel bowled excellently at times yesterday and today, keeping England’s batsmen honest with seam movement and decent pace. Jason Holder, after criticism for his captaincy and performance in the first Test, led from the front in his 33 overs.
Despite the missed chances, England deserve great credit for their display in the third innings of this match. At times they found the going tough but they battled hard, none more so than Malan. Only one player in the top nine, Tom Westley, made single figures and there were half-centuries today for Root, Malan, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes. England’s total was the third-highest second-innings team total at Headingley and England’s highest score ever without a century maker. Under pressure, it has been a strong showing.
England had started the day just two runs ahead. Root reached his half-century in the first over of the day but Roach and Gabriel continued where they had left off yesterday with a fine opening burst. Gabriel offered a few more loose deliveries than Roach, both Root and Malan clipped him off their legs for boundaries. But the burly West Indian soon had the key wicket of England’s captain. A shorter ball reared off a length and Root could only cut it straight to Hope who held on after an initial fumble.
It was a soft dismissal in the circumstances and another score between fifty and a hundred for Root. His overall Test statistics now stand at 32 half-centuries and 13 hundreds. The next over came the pivotal moment of the day. Malan wafted outside off-stump to Jason Holder, edged the ball, but was dropped by Powell. In fairness to the fielder, wicket-keeper Shane Dowrich motioned to go for the catch but then didn’t, which may have put him off. If it had been taken, England would have been just 44 runs ahead with five wickets remaining.
As it was, Malan continued on, scoring another 29 runs. It was not a fluent or pretty innings from England’s number five – and the manner of runs scored, whether comfortably or with plenty of luck, does count for something – but these were valuable runs under extreme pressure. It was his second half-century in as many matches and he has now probably secured his Ashes spot too. Malan and Stokes put on 91 for the fifth wicket but Windies, in the shape of Holder and Devendra Bishoo, made them work for it. It took Stokes 48 balls before he reached 20.
Straight after lunch, Windies took the new ball in search of a breakthrough but it never came despite the best efforts of Roach and Gabriel. In truth, they bowled less consistently than they had earlier in the day and Stokes slowly asserted himself, hitting Gabriel for successive fours down the ground and then through cover point and long-leg in the same bowler’s next over. Stokes’ half-century came off 92 balls.
Shortly after, Stokes was out, caught at long-off, attempting to hit off-spinner Roston Chase in to nearby Manchester for 58. England’s lead was still only 134 then and had increased by just nine more runs when Malan was bowled by Chase, playing down the wrong line to a ball which didn’t spin. Four overs later, Bairstow was out, reverse-sweeping Chase but succeeding only in chopping on. Windies off-spinner had taken three wickets for nine runs and England’s lead was only 158.
The tourists had a chance to keep the target below 200 but England’s batting strength is in their middle order. Moeen and Woakes, who have eighteen first-class hundreds between them, put on 117 in 23 overs. It was a partnership which tilted the game strongly in England’s favour after Tea and which has probably put it out of Windies reach. It could have been ended sooner when Moeen, on 32, was caught behind by Dowrich but Bishoo had over-stepped. It was a let-off which allowed England’s all-rounder to score another 52 runs.
When Moeen was out, caught unselfishly at long-on trying to clear the rope, he had 84 from 93 balls and Woakes moved to his own half-century soon afterwards. England had reached 490 when Root declared, an aggressive and slightly unexpected move, but Powell and Kraigg Brathwaite got through the six overs before the close safely enough.
Both batsmen have plenty of batting to do tomorrow on a surface which is still playing pretty well but is, at times, bouncing unevenly and turning, which should mean Moeen has a big role to play. England have 90 overs to take ten wickets but the task for Windies is much tougher. The only team to have chased more than 321 runs to win at Headingley were Don Bradman’s Invincibles in 1948. It is a mighty challenge indeed.
Source by cricbuzz..