Lunch West Indies 297 (da Silva 100*) lead England 204 by 93 runs
Joshua Da Silva converted his overnight 54 into an outstanding, match-transforming 100 not out, the first century of his Test career, as the troubling toothlessness of England’s bowlers was shown up in dramatic, and potentially series-seizing, style on the third morning at Grenada.
By lunch, West Indies’ lead had extended from a slender to 28 to a significant 93, with Da Silva and Jayden Seales adding 52 for the tenth wicket in a brilliantly dogged display that was only ended on the stroke of a delayed interval, when Joe Root picked off a return catch from Seales for 13, the highest score of his own career too.
And seeing as England managed to lose eight wickets before knocking off that figure in their first innings, the prospect of a hairy afternoon awaits when their own turn comes to bat.
For Da Silva, however, it was the proudest morning of his Test career, and the landmark moment came up in thrilling style too, with back-to-back boundaries off Craig Overton, the latter a fierce slap off the back foot through long-on as he gave himself room to leg and immediately roared in triumph as he raised both fists to the heavens.
One ball later, his innings seemed to have been ended by a fine riposte from Overton, as the ball leapt off the deck and through to the keeper via an apparent inside-edge. But in farcical scenes that rather summed up England’s frustrations, Da Silva was already leaving the field to handshakes, only to be called back on after his speculative use of the review showed that he hadn’t touched the ball and the only deflection had come off his thigh.
After resuming on 232 for 8 overnight, West Indies had added 13 largely untroubled runs in the first 20 minutes before Saqib Mahmood made the first incision of the day – once again from a back-of-a-length delivery as Kemar Roach, yet to add to his overnight 25, fenced at a lifter into the ribs and found a thin tickle down the leg side to Ben Foakes.
That might have been the cue for a similarly deck-hitting approach for the remainder of the innings. However, any expectations of a swift conclusion were roundly scotched by the steadfast Da Silva, who had made a trio of 30s in the first two Tests in Antigua and Barbados, and now found a steady tempo from the get-go to keep chivvying West Indies’ total onwards.
He did have some early moments of discomfort though. On 65, he was given out lbw as Chris Woakes targeted a fuller, straighter length, but the decision was over-ruled due to an inside-edge, and Da Silva hadn’t added to his total when, one over later, Woakes pinned him on the bottom hand with a lifter, a blow that necessitated a couple of visits from the physio.
Not for the first time, however, England’s bowlers were guilty of offering too far much width with the still-new ball – only six overs old when the day’s play began. And when they did aim fuller, it was generally on a floatier length, as shown when Woakes was handsomely driven down the ground by Da Silva for the first boundary of the day.
With the No. 11 Seales in his sights, Mahmood bent his back in a lively over that should by rights have wrapped up the innings. First he fired in a bouncer that swung late into the batter as he took evasive action, and then in the same over, Seales was pinned in front of off stump and would have been adjudged lbw on review. However, England had burned all their lifelines in their second-evening frustration, and to make matters worse, the ball deflected past the diving Foakes for four leg-byes.
But much as had been the case with England’s own tenth-wicket stand on the first day, the unfussy endurance merely exacerbated the frustrations of the bowling team. With drinks approaching, England were forced to turn once more to the toiling Ben Stokes, his knees creaking after his unexpectedly full-on workload in this series, but even his best efforts couldn’t go to hand, as Seales jabbed a lifter from round the wicket through a gap in the cordon and away for four.
England’s stint in the field had stretched past 100 overs when Da Silva decided to was time to take on the spin of Jack Leach, with an ambitious slap back over the bowler’s head for a one-bounce four, just inside the rope. For the most part, however, he was content to bide his time, and marshal the strike, reasonably safe in the knowledge that only an error in judgement was likely to dislodge either man against a notably uninspired attack.
With 20 minutes remaining in the session, Stokes nearly extracted that error, however, as Seales leant into a clip to the leg-side from round the wicket, and ballooned a chance towards Leach at wide mid-on – but he couldn’t react quickly enough as he sprawled forward with the ball inches out of his reach.
Craig Overton, the last of England’s quicks to get an outing, was called upon with ten minutes to go until the nominal lunch break, and began bombing Seales with short balls from round the wicket – a tactic that England probably should have gone to several overs earlier, but which in the event lasted just two overs before Root decided to bring his own offspin into the attack.
In response, Da Silva decided it was time to take the attack to Leach – and he nearly paid the price with his first hack across the line, but Foakes behind the stumps couldn’t gather as his toe dragged momentarily out of the crease. His follow-up shot nearly bobbled to square leg too, but Da Silva had found his range by the end of the over, with a brace of sweetly thumped fours – through the covers and past square leg – to march into the 90s for the second time in his career.
And as if emboldened by his senior partner’s upping of the ante, Seales broke out of his reticence to drill Leach high and handsome over long-on for the first six of his career, and to move into double figures for the first time too. By then, England’s frustrations had been exacerbated by an extra half-an-hour in the field – an automatic adjustment when batting sides are nine-down, but not usually one encountered after a partnership of nearly two hours. In the end, they used just 18 of them before the innings finally ended. But the whole session had felt like a stint in purgatory for Root’s men.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket