Captain Joe Root escapes to lead rearguard action
England and West Indies Test match delicately poised
Joe Root in action at the crease at Headingley. Photograph: Reuters/Lee Smith
Captain Joe Root was left to lead the rearguard as England traded blows with the West Indies in a captivating second Test that could go either way at Headingley.
England, absorbing a 169-run first-innings deficit, finished day three two runs ahead on 171 for three, with Root bearing the all-too familiar burden of holding up a fragile top order. The tourists would have been heavy favourites had Kyle Hope held Root on 10 at gully, but he took advantage of the latest fielding gaffe in a match groaning with them, reaching 45 not out by close of play. As it stands the series is very much alive heading into day four, with the West Indies chasing their first win in Britain for 17 years and England searching for the kind of battling win that would tee them up nicely for this winter’s Ashes.
Tom Westley (eight) may have missed his chance to be part of that trip, chasing a wide one to make it four single-figure scores in a row, but Mark Stoneman fared better, making a maiden half-century in his third innings at this level, despite suffering a dislocated little finger. Dawid Malan also had a platform, with 21 not out, having survived an apparent caught behind on four. The West Indies had earlier been dismissed for 427, adding 98 runs for five wickets in a lively session.
England enjoyed a perfect start, James Anderson taking wickets with the first two balls of the day to take his career tally to 497. Shai Hope, who made 147 in 252 balls on Saturday, nicked off to the waiting Jonny Bairstow and Shane Dowrich bagged a golden duck as Anderson sealed his five-wicket haul in short order. Punters scrambled to take their seats for the hat-trick ball, but Jason Holder tucked in tidily behind his forward defensive.
England still looked ready to mop up, but, when Jermaine Blackwood chipped Stuart Broad’s second ball to mid-on, Moeen Ali somehow contrived to fumble the simplest of catches. Broad was aghast and the gravity of the error soon became apparent as Blackwood (49) and Holder (43) added an extra 71 runs for the eighth wicket.
Blackwood rode his luck, with edges disappearing over slips and gully, while Holder collared Broad for three successive boundaries, the last a picturesque cover drive. Runs were flowing at a worrying rate until Moeen salvaged partial redemption by holding a tricky over-the-shoulder chance to see off Holder.
The West Indies managed 23 more, Blackwood run out for 49 and Shannon Gabriel beating his batting average of five with a single blow off Moeen before Ben Stokes wrapped things up. Neither side advanced their agenda significantly between lunch and tea with the scoreboard reading 68 for one after two hours of shadow-boxing. Alastair Cook (23) was the man to go, groping at Holder after a clever set-up. Stoneman settled his nerves early, punishing an over-pitching Kemar Roach with three fours in an over, but soon found his scoring options thinned.
His partnership with Westley was loaded with significance, for the match, series and the pair’s own individual prospects. The intensity immediately spiked after tea, Stoneman’s little finger reset by the physio after Holder rapped his left glove with a big in-cutter and Westley surviving what looked a certain run out. He was yards short of his ground after mis-reading his partner’s intentions, but a wayward throw from Gabriel, Devendra Bishoo’s spill and a botched attempt to hurl down the stumps spared the Essex man.
Where the Windies made Moeen pay for his drop earlier, Westley roundly failed to do so. He added just two more runs, from a mis-field, before throwing the bat at a wider ball from Holder and feathering through to Dowrich. Stoneman shrugged off his discomfort, tucking the ball off his pads to reach his half-century, but lost his off stump to a beauty from Gabriel that angled in and straightened off the pitch.
There was sufficient suspicion of a no-ball to warrant several replays, but the benefit of the doubt eventually went to the bowler. At 94 for three the game was calling the West Indians, but bad judgment and more slack catching cost them. First they failed to refer a caught behind against Malan, with technology indicating there had been contact, and then Hope spilled Root on 10.
The skipper had taken 21 balls to get off the mark and an early departure would have been a body blow to a side that has come to rely on him but instead, he remade his mark and settled in for stumps.