England is frustrated by Kraigg Brathwaite's and Jermaine Blackwood's twin tonnes.

  • March 19, 2022, 12:44 p.m.

Kraigg Brathwaite's century celebration said it all.

After a disciplined display that frustrated England's bowlers no end and ultimately lasted the entire third day, Brathwaite posted a stubborn 10th Test ton, but he knew that plenty of work lay ahead in West Indies' pursuit of England's hefty first-innings total.

On the other hand, Jermaine Blackwood started celebrating his century a third of the way down the pitch while still watching the ball trickling beyond the slip cordon for a single, running with his arms outstretched before turning his face skyward and pumping his fist as a relieved grin appeared briefly, then gave way to a determined stare, the task ahead not forgotten.

And so it was at stumps, with the West Indies still trailing by 219 runs, but, thanks to their twin centurions, they had taken the fight to England.

The pair put on 183 runs together to grind down an England attack deflated by the denial of Saqib Mahmood's maiden Test wicket - Blackwood on 65 at the time - because of a front-foot no ball, and with tensions boiling over in a verbal altercation between Ben Stokes and Blackwood.

When Blackwood finally fell for 102 late in the day, shouldering arms to a Dan Lawrence ball which struck high on the front pad in line with the top of middle stump, England had their first wicket since the morning session. But Brathwaite endured, still looking calm and collected on 109 not out, alongside nightwatchman Alzarri Joseph.

In sharp contrast to the drawn first Test in Antigua, where he raced to his fastest Test fifty - off 62 balls - but failed to press on, Brathwaite had inched to his slowest half-century, off 167 balls, in Barbados, sweeping Jack Leach for four, and facing another 111 deliveries before raising his ton, rocking back to thread Leach behind point for two.

In both instances, Brathwaite's innings had been exactly what his side needed. In the previous match, he and John Campbell set West Indies' off to a bright start in pursuit of England's first-innings score before Nkrumah Bonner's century helped them to a modest lead. This time, Brathwaite took it upon himself to hang around... and hang around... in a bit to steer his side into a competitive position.

Having resumed on 71 for 1, West Indies lost two wickets before lunch, before Brathwaite and Blackwood mounted their resistance.

Leach had found considerable turn in his first over of the day, beating the outside edge of both Brathwaite and Shamarh Brooks, but Brooks was culpable in his own dismissal inside the first half hour. Leach broke through with a shorter, wider delivery that saw Brooks' attempted cut sail to the backward point, where Chris Woakes took a good catch low to his right.

Brooks and Brathwaite had put on 69 runs for the second wicket but added just 12 runs in 7.4 overs on the third morning as Leach and Matt Fisher kept them well contained.

Stokes entered the attack midway through the morning session and struck in his second over, removing Bonner lbw for just 9 to ensure there would be no reprise of his first-innings century in Antigua. Bonner reviewed umpire Nigel Duguid's decision, UltraEdge failing to shed definitive light on whether he had hit it first and ball-tracking showing that it was clipping the top of middle stump as Bonner trudged off.

If Bonner was hard done by, it was a case of swings and roundabouts a short time later when Stokes pinned Blackwood on the back leg, with England choosing not to call for the DRS, only for replays to show it was hitting the leg stump halfway up.

Mahmood thought he had his first Test wicket when he struck Blackwood on the boot with a fine reverse-swinging delivery, and England reviewed the not-out decision, but replays showed Blackwood had got outside the line of off stump.

But there was to be greater heartache for Mahmood in an eventful 93rd over when he first beat Blackwood's attempted drive, narrowly missing the outside edge, then nailed a yorker which clattered into the bottom of the middle stump, only to have his elation curtailed when the third umpire found he had over-stepped. It would have been little consolation for Mahmood to learn he wasn't the first England bowler to miss out on his first Test wicket that way. The next ball, Blackwood left, almost to his peril, with the ball missing the top of the off stump by a whisker.

Reverse swing had played a significant part in England's tactics, but they could not penetrate the West Indies' defences, as Brathwaite and Blackwood saw themselves through to the arrival of the second new ball - and beyond.

Brathwaite punched Fisher through extra cover to bring up fifty partnership and guided Stokes through gully, to the bowler's chagrin. Blackwood picked off boundaries smartly too, cutting Leach crisply in front of square to bring up his fifty, his sixth of 11 fours for the innings, but for the most part it was a gritty, patient performance by both batters.

Author : Rajdhani Delhi Representative

Rajdhani delhi representative

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