England trail by 111 runs with 8 first innings wickets in hand
Kemar Roach set the tone for England’s reply with one of the great spells of no-ball bowling before the West Indies wilted under the Nottingham sun.
Whether it was a witch-hunt, a legitimate building up of pressure on an out of form player or just an example of the press corps having to write about something, it must now be over. With his second hundred in as many matches Andrew Strauss has confirmed his position both as opener and as captain in the long term. He will surely now be able to go out on his own terms, whenever that may be. This wasn’t the test of character of Lord’s and neither was the bowling as impressive, but after a slow start he cashed in on a weary attack. He was helped by the arrival of Kevin Pietersen, who immediately put pressure on the bowlers – his intentions were clear from the moment he hammered his first delivery from Shane Shillingford back over the sightscreen – and often enables his partner to dominate as well. This, perhaps surprisingly, is their highest stand together, and the only time they have put on more than 100. The next hurdle for the captain to overcome is to avoid getting out first thing in the morning, something he has developed quite the reputation for. There are an awful lot of runs left in this pitch.
Roach could have been the pivotal man. During one of those awkward 20 minute spells openers hate so much, he put Alastair Cook, in particular, under real pressure and soon had him brilliantly caught behind by Denesh Ramdin. Unfortunately, instead of being the moment which marked West Indies taking charge, it turned out to be the point at which it all started to fall apart. Maybe Roach had been so taken with Amjad Khan’s performance on Sky the other night that he decided to imitate him. Whatever the reason, he suddenly developed a no-ball problem way beyond that which he was afflicted with at Lord’s. Cook was reprieved as the umpires checked upstairs, before being let off the hook a second time shortly after as Roach overstepped again. By this stage, almost every ball could have been called and the West Indies’ main strike bowler completely lost his rhythm. After he was hastily withdrawn, only Ravi Rampaul could offer any sort of threat or control and England dismembered the rest of the attack.
This Test series has thrown up a number of surprises, but as it stands we seem set to see a massive England score. They are extremely dangerous in situations where their lower order can attack from the off and build big leads and, barring a collapse of ridiculous proportions, the stage will be set for them tomorrow afternoon. With Roach struggling, Rampaul’s fitness an issue, and Shillingford and Darren Sammy leaking runs like there’s no tomorrow, Sunday could be a long day for the tourists.