North Sound (Antigua), March 11 (IANS) West Indies middle-order batter Nkrumah Bonner scored a patient century as the hosts took a morale-boosting 62-run lead on Day 3 of the opening Test against the Joe Root-led England at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium here on Friday (IST).
At stumps on Day 3, the West Indies, thanks to a 355-ball 123 from Bonner, were 373/9 in reply to England’s first-innings total of 311 all out.
The hosts added 171 runs on a slow-paced day, with Bonner anchoring the effort almost all the way through the day, reaching his second century in Test cricket off his 257th delivery by sweeping Jack Leach to the boundary shortly after tea.
A patient and determined approach from the home side continued even once Bonner had reached his hundred, with the 33-year-old inching past his previous best Test score and falling shortly before the close to part-timer Dan Lawrence for 123.
West Indies had resumed on 202/4 and added just four more runs against the old ball before an excellent bit of bowling from Ben Stokes had Jason Holder caught behind by Ben Foakes. The new-look England attack had hoped to benefit from the arrival of the new ball and run through the remainder of the West Indies attack, but the new ball failed to have the desired effect, with no further wickets falling before lunch, despite England bowling far better than they had on the second day.
When Joshua Da Silva was out lbw to Leach for an 88-ball 32, soon to be followed by Alzarri Joseph, caught in the deep off Overton for two, it looked as if England may even emerge with a first-innings lead despite their lack of incisive bowling.
But the West Indies dropped anchor and made England toil through to tea, putting plenty of overs into the tiring attack, which was without the services of Mark Wood for the final two sessions due to injury.
England’s travails continued after tea as Kemar Roach and Bonner further blunted the visitors’ attack, with the pair putting on 44 runs in a 173-ball stand that came to an end when Roach was run out for 15 from 89 deliveries.
Yet Bonner and new partner Veerasammy Permaul kept on with the grind, with England’s opening bowlers Chris Woakes and Craig Overton both passing 30-overs bowled in the innings and looking appearing unthreatening as the final session drew on.
And England were also forced into drawing 28 overs out of all-rounder Ben Stokes, who has only recently been able to bowl again after an injury that hampered him through much of the Ashes loss to Australia.
Spinner Leach finished the day with figures of 1/79 from 43 overs having offered his captain Joe Root plenty of control but very little threat.
England’s tricky second day in the field had become even tougher when Mark Wood was forced off with a reoccurrence of an elbow injury, with the team’s management later confirming he would not bowl again in the innings.
The injury puts Wood’s availability for the second Test, which starts on Wednesday in Barbados, in serious doubt, with Ollie Robinson also unlikely to be fit for selection.
Saqib Mahmood and Matt Fisher, both of whom are uncapped, are the two remaining England pace bowlers on Tour following the decision to leave James Anderson and Stuart Broad at home.
England’s travails caught the eye, but the brilliant Bonner who was the story of the day. It was Lawrence, bowling his first and England’s 155th over, who finally ended Bonner stay at the crease, drawing a feather of an edge down the leg side that was expertly pouched by Foakes.
But the late-blooming 33-year-old, who was only capped for the first time in Test cricket last year, departed having given West Indies the upper hand in the game and posing a number of unanswered questions of England’s bowling unit.
Brief scores: England 311 vs West Indies 373/9 (Kraigg Brathwaite 55, John Campbell 35, Nkrumah Bonner 123, Jason Holder 45, Joshua Da Silva 32; Ben Stokes 2/42, Craig Overton 2/85).