Fourth-wicket stand of 246 helped West Indies take a 71-run lead with five wickets still in hand
JOE ROOT endured a day against West Indies that he would never have thought possible even in his most pessimistic moments.
Captain Root watched with a mixture of bewilderment and frustration as his bowlers managed to take just four wickets on day two of the Second Test.
And one of those was the nightwatchman.
James Anderson captured three wickets in the Windies’ first innings – and then warned England have no chance in the Ashes if they bowl so poorly.
The reason England struggled to make an impact was that Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope both scored highly-accomplished centuries and put on 246 for the fourth wicket.
It was an unimaginable, unbelievable turnaround from the abject performance West Indies served up in the pink ball Test at Edgbaston.
They were vilified and mocked – even by their own stars from the past – but here they deserve only praise for the way they defied England’s bowlers.
By the close of day two, the Windies were 329-5 in reply to England’s 258 all out.
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Don’t forget, they would have dismissed England for a much smaller score if they had not dropped both Root and Ben Stokes before they reached double figures.
Brathwaite and Hope were magnificent. They batted with skill, authority, calmness and discipline and made sure West Indies achieved a first-innings lead over England in a Test for the first time since 2009.
England now face the genuine possibility of defeat, which would be nothing short of embarrassing considering how they destroyed the Windies by an innings and 205 runs just a week ago. They will be batting under big pressure in their second innings.
When nightwatchman Devendra Bishoo was caught behind and Kyle Hope excellently held by a plunging Root at second slip, West Indies were 35-3 and usual service appeared in progress.
But England did not take another wicket for 69 overs until Brathwaite was bowled for 134, his sixth Test century, by a nip-backer from Broad.
Anderson admitted: “This is not the standards we set for ourselves in Test cricket. We have played a lot of good cricket over last few months but this last two days is not a reflection of that.
“We are still evolving as a side, trying to improve and iron out those inconsistencies. We have big tour of Australia coming up – we can’t go there and win the series if we are inconsistent.”
He added: “The conditions were helpful for bowling in the morning but, when the sun came out, the ball didn’t do as much. They batted brilliantly and our batsmen could learn from the way they applied themselves.
“We didn’t bowl well – we didn’t create enough pressure.We talk about bowling in partnerships but there was always a release of pressure from one end. We bowled too many bad balls. But we’re still in the game, we have the character to turn things around.”
Vice-captain Brathwaite’s action was deemed illegal when he sent down a couple of gentle overs at Edgbaston – but his batting was entirely textbook.
He is predominantly a back-foot player, defending with soft hands and employing the cut shot to anything short. He was patience personified.
The opener, who had three reviews go in his favour, was not afraid to attempt something aggressive at times and reached both his fifty and century with sixes over long-on.
Hope passed three figures for the first time in Test cricket and he played with the assurance of a veteran, not somebody in his 12th Test with an average of 18 before this match.
Hope offered one chance on 72 – but Mark Stoneman could not grab the ball at short leg.
Hope will resume this morning with 147 not out.
Roston Chase edged Stokes to slip soon after Brathwaite departed but the enterprising Jermaine Blackwood, never afraid to whack the bowlers, remained until the close.
While Anderson was the most threatening of England’s bowlers, Broad struggled for rhythm and Chris Woakes’ pace was down sufficiently to suggest he is not 100 per cent fit following his side injury.