Remember when it was raining a couple of days ago and any meaningful chance of a result seemed washed away too? Or, at 199-3 and 242-4 yesterday afternoon when the contest was drifting by the hour? Add ‘how quickly things can change’ to the lists of reasons why our game, and this format, cannot be matched. As a consequence of eight wickets in the final session – even after the West Indies passed the follow-on mark – we still have a serious finish on our hands. What a treat.
When England resume their second innings at 37-2, neither of those numbers on the scoreboard will matter much to Joe Root – who is currently not out alongside his vice-captain (and first innings century-maker), Ben Stokes. Instead, they’ll only be taking note of the lead – currently 219 – and how many of the 98 overs remain in the match. A declaration loses them two of those, so we have a 96-over game today.
How to set it up? There are a few factors for Joe Root to consider. One, whether he gives the West Indies a sniff. Given England are one-nil down in this series, the skipper can’t be sheepish about this. Yes, there are World Test Championship points that will be lost if the were to lose instead of draw, but forget about that – they want to regain the trophy. Risking a loss in order to increase the chance of winning is essential.
What about a second new ball? If England want one late on the final day – and why wouldn’t they after seeing what happened with it yesterday afternoon – then they can’t bat for too long this morning. Perhaps ten overs? That was Michael Vaughan’s view last night. That allows 86 overs to bowl the Windies out, six of those with the second new ball if required and, whisper it, bad light doesn’t intervene.
That being the case, assuming they can go at about a run a ball through those ten overs (remember, this isn’t one-day cricket with fielders up; boundaries will be difficult to come by) then 270 feels like it could be Numberwang. Do the visitors then go and chase it? I mean, they might – and good on them if they do. But a draw is enough for them to retain the trophy, and not a bad outcome at all after two days in the dirt to begin this Test Match, conceding 469 in the first innings.
So for the second week in a row, we have plenty to look forward to on day five. And as always, I’m looking forward to your company throughout. Email, tweet, MSN Messenger? I have them all open. Hit me with your hottest of takes.