Alzarri Joseph put aside deep personal grief to make two important strikes as the West Indies reduced England to 75 for four in their second innings at tea on the third day of the second Test against England at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua on Saturday.
Trailing by 119 runs at the start of their, innings after Darren Bravo’s ultra-patient half-century extended the West Indies first innings total to 306 in the morning, England go into the final session of the day needing to erase a deficit of 44 more runs before entertaining the prospect of setting the home side a challenging fourth innings target.
Jason Holder made the first two breakthroughs for his side in removing Rory Burns and Jonny Bairstow.
Then Joseph, who decided to continue playing even though his ailing mother, Sharon, died early in the morning, claimed the wickets of England captain Joe Root and debutant opener Joe Denly just before the end of the afternoon session
England would have been in even deeper trouble but John Campbell completely misjudged an opportunity at third slip which would have removed Ben Stokes for a second ball “duck” off Joseph’s bowling.
West Indies will be wary of allowing the aggressive all-rounder to benefit from that error when he continues in partnership with Jos Buttler at the resumption after tea.
It was the second catch of the session put down by the home side. Kraigg Brathwaite failed to hold on to a chance offered by Denly when he top-edged an attempted hook off Shannon Gabriel to fine-leg.
Most of the focus at the start of the day was on Bravo, the lone West Indies batsman to fail in both innings of the 381-run victory in the first Test in Barbados a week earlier.
– slowest ever –
He made amends in a manner completely against his nature, his even 50 coming off 216 deliveries, the slowest-ever by a West Indies batsman in Test cricket in terms of balls faced.
In stark contrast to the watchful defiance which typified his near six-hour occupation of the crease, the left-hander was last out when he charged down the pitch at Moeen Ali to be stumped.
It was the off-spinner’s third wicket of the innings.
Stuart Broad, England’s outstanding bowler on the second day when he picked up three wickets, was left empty-handed on the third morning as opening partner James Anderson finally got among the wickets to limit the West Indies quest for a sizeable first innings advantage after the resumed at 272 for six.
Anderson first removed Holder, who contributed 22 to a 45-run seventh-wicket partnership with Bravo, via a catch to stand-in wicketkeeper Bairstow. England team officials have confirmed that although regular ‘keeper Ben Foakes suffered no fracture when struck on the hand while batting on the first day on Thursday, Bairstow will do duty behind the stumps for the rest of the match.
Kemar Roach then became Anderson’s second wicket courtesy of a fine diving catch by Stokes at second slip.
Joseph’s arrival at the crease was greeted with hearty and sympathetic applause from the fans at the ground and, sportingly, the England players on the field.
Both teams are wearing black armbands as a mark of respect.
There was no sympathy though for the young man in his time at the wicket as Stokes served up a lifting delivery which Joseph could only fend into the slip cordon for Burns to take the catch.
Joined by last man Shannon Gabriel, Bravo hoisted Ali for six to close in on the half-century. But it was the bowler who had the last laugh after the batsman accomplished the landmark.