For the second Test match in a row, it was England who ran all the way on the final day, throwing all they could muster at the West Indies only to end up shaking hands in another draw due to the remarkable powers of concentration of Kraigg Brathwaite.
West Indies had won 282 from a minimum of 65 overs after England beat 185 for six at lunch and declared themselves for the second time in the game. This equation was not too different from that of Antigua last week where it was 286 out of 71; so did West Indies’ early switch to survival mode after losing three quick wickets.
But at 5.47pm local time, with 13 minutes to go, the tourists had to accept the 0-0 scoreline ahead of Thursday’s final test in Granada. Brathwaite had simply been the toughest of the perennials in this game, after an epic 160 in 11 hours in the first innings – a score that fended off England’s 507 for nine – with 246 more minutes in the crease and 56 undefeated.
Jack Leach claimed three wickets and offered more steal and trickery late in a game in which he sent 94.5 overs, while Saqib Mahmood also crackled with a two-wicket flurry. But Brathwaite could not be dislodged, facing more balls in a Test match (673) than any West Indian batter in history. In a tense final hour, as Leach and Dan Lawrence swirled around in the gloom, he also found an equally resolute sidekick in Joshua Da Silva.
It was Leach who initially struck for England when, kicked off a new hard ball by Joe Root just five overs into the fourth inning, he immediately put fly-half John Campbell out via a bat-pad hold that required the last use of the review system in a series of bad referees. Mahmood then toppling Shamarh Brooks and Nkrumah Bonner in quick succession raised hopes that this heartbreaking surface could still produce a positive result.
Sliding from Joel Garner End before launching into his soft but rebellious action, Mahmood hit the sixth ball when Brooks edged out the game’s first catch at the cord. Root was credited – his 150th catch in Test cricket – but it was Zak Crawley on the second slide who made it happen, twice putting the ball back on the dive before his captain circled. “I felt like a striker on the line, driving down,” Root joked. “He should be listed as Zak to be fair.”
Root’s 151st was much simpler, at least, with Mahmood taking on Bonner and taking the lead for what was his fourth wicket on his debut. But from 39-for-three in just 13th, West Indies managed to take the tea, with first-inning centurion Jermaine Blackwood joining their captain for an hour and a half of steadfast resistance.
Seven wickets required by England in the final session allowed for another repeat scenario of the first Test, but Leach quickly changed the narrative when, after a change of sides, he floated one to Blackwood, a found a bit of a turn and Jonny Bairstow – one of two tight fielders kneeling among the seekers’ cage – choked him out.
After Jason Holder then fell on Leach for a 24-ball duck via an excellent diving catch from Lawrence, West Indies faltered. The tension was high, the crowd were being rewarded for their patience all week and no one could deny that England’s desire to go deeper into the competition this time was disrespectful. Brathwaite was just as stubborn as a patch of grass.
The launching pad for England’s victorious push had arrived in the morning when, between downpours and the now familiar sight of the local sound engineer racing to save his stump mics, they crushed 145 races in one just under 25 overs. Their batters cared little for red ink, losing six wickets along the way as the West Indies outfielders held a succession of superb catches from deep.
Lawrence scored with 41 from 39, the No. 4 repeating his role on the final day in Antigua and putting in a strong all-around performance after his 91 on the opening day. He and Bairstow cleared the ropes several times each to the delight of the crowd, while all eight batters were on the wing heel between the wickets with the field extended.
It was the first freewheeling session since Ben Stokes lit up day two with his 128-ball 120, setting the stage for a commendable assault on the West Indies lineup despite two of the front row bowlers in England – Chris Woakes and Matthew Fisher – are largely redundant due to conditions.
On the reconstruction in the Caribbean, England relies heavily on qualities such as energy and altruism. Hopes of a first victory in this harsh winter may have been dashed by Brathwaite’s heroism in his hometown, but on those fronts they are at least living up to the brief.