Wednesday, April 17, 2024

England tighten grip on 1st test vs. West Indies


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NORTH SOUND, Antigua (AP) — England tightened their grip on outclassed West Indies on the fourth day of the first test of the three-match series at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on Thursday.

England’s batsmen, led by left-hander Gary Ballance’s 122, piled on the pressure, allowing captain Alastair Cook to declare their second innings just before tea at 333-7. It set the West Indies the challenging option of either scoring a record 438 to win or batting through the final four sessions to draw.

Stuart Broad made an immediate breakthrough before tea with a bouncer that opener Kraigg Brathwaite could only fend off his body to be caught at short-leg for 5 but England were then made to fight for over two hours by left-handers Devon Smith and Darren Bravo.

They shared a partnership of 83, which ended when Bravo was spectacularly caught at slip by Chris Jordan off occasional off-spinner Joe Root before the close of play.

Bravo was seldom troubled compiling 32 but Root came close to removing Smith in similar fashion when Jordan was wrong-footed by an edge that flew past his right hand.

Smith, fighting to retain his place for the second test in his home island, Grenada, next week was 59 at close with West Indies 98-2, still a distant 345 away from their unlikely winning target.

When England resumed their second innings at the overnight 11-3, Ballance extended his overnight 44 to his fourth hundred in his ninth test. Going for quick runs to hasten the declaration, he skied a catch to Jermaine Backwood at deep mid-wicket off left-armer spinner Suliemen Benn in the second session. Two sixes and 11 fours were his main scoring shots.

Resuming at 29, Root was the only wicket to fall before lunch, ending the stand of 114 with Ballance. He edged a ball into his stumps for the second time in the match and was bowled by fast bowler Jason Holder for 59 off 79 balls with a six and five fours.

As Ballance moved towards his hundred, he put on 60 with fellow left-hander Ben Strokes, who was stumped for 35 off Benn in the first over after lunch.

Ballance arrived at his 100 off the 233rd ball he faced as he and wicket-keeper Jos Buttler took advantage of listless bowling and defensive field placings in a partnership of 55. The only threat to Ballance was a fierce straight drive by Buttler off Holder that hit him on the left bicep, requiring on field attention from the team’s physiotherapist.

After Ballance’s dismissal, Buttler and Chris Jordan added 52 from 6.4 overs to sign off England’s innings.


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