55th over: West Indies 166-6 (Holder 38, Dowrich 24) It was a beautiful catch by Ollie Pope, swooping to his right in a way that makes you wonder if he is related to Nick Pope of Burnley. And a most untypical blemish from Woakes. Maybe he scrambled his systems with those bouncers.
“Shane Dowrich uses the most beautiful bat I’ve ever seen,” says Hal Hainsworth. “He’s also scored three tonnes to Buttler’s one, in twelve fewer Tests and at a similar average. If I knew how to use the chin stroking emoji on email, I would.” Tonnes, eh.
Reprieve!! Holder saved by a no-ball
Holder chips to midwicket! Out of nowhere, England appear to have the breakthrough – but the third umpire decides that Woakes has bowled a no-ball, only the second in his 34 Tests. So much for Mr Impeccable.
54th over: West Indies 161-6 (Holder 37, Dowrich 21) The bodyline policy hasn’t been abandoned – it’s just been entrusted to Archer, who is far better equipped for it. He goes round the wicket to bomb Dowrich with two short legs. This, by coincidence, is the ploy with which Neil Wagner of New Zealand recently kept Steve Smith quiet. Dowrich plays one uncertain fend but survives, picks up a couple of runs, and persuades Archer to go back over the wicket.
53rd over: West Indies 159-6 (Holder 37, Dowrich 19) Woakes, after that most uncharacteristic little blitzkrieg, goes back to being Woakes and bowls a maiden to Holder.
52nd over: West Indies 159-6 (Holder 37, Dowrich 19) Holder picks up a two and a one and survives an appeal for run-out as he comes back for the two. Pope’s throw was sharp but the fielders never got very excited.
“Can’t wait for today to get over,” says Digvijay Yadav. “The anxiety over the football results is eating away at my ability to enjoy the cricket.” That’s making me wonder which team you support – Watford? “I admire Holder, as I am sure many others do, but whilst there was some logic to bowling first in the second Test, here it felt that it was stubbornness that led the decision. And the drift in the last session of the first day was also down to him in some way.” It was bizarre to bowl first while also picking the extra spinner. There are so many facets to being a captain – Holder strikes me as a natural leader of a team, but no great tactician. Stokes, in his brief taste of captaincy, was much the same.
51st over: West Indies 156-6 (Holder 34, Dowrich 19) Dowrich has been wobbly against the bouncer in this series, so much so that even Woakes tries a few short ones. The first has Dowrich on the floor, the second is ducked, and the third is pulled for four. The follow-on is surely off.
50th over: West Indies 152-6 (Holder 34, Dowrich 15) Archer continues, so Root is making a bit of a point. Anderson does some warm-ups to remind him who has an end named after them in these parts. And Archer, though turning up the pace, goes for a few runs as Holder plays a handsome off-drive and a well-placed cover force. He has a double hundred against England, and may be eyeing a single one today.
49th over: West Indies 143-6 (Holder 26, Dowrich 14) From the other end it’s Chris Woakes, so maybe Joe Root is showing the old firm that they can’t have it all their own way. It’s Jason Holder’s turn to push into the covers. By the end of the over, he’s having drops in the eye that was giving him some trouble yesterday.
Here’s John Starbuck. “Strictly speaking, Rory Burns [10:51] does not have a goatee. He is bearded, but the hair isn’t trimmed to be only just below his chin, as with goats. There is a lot of misunderstanding about hirsute matters these days. Where’s the BLF when they are needed?” Note for younger readers: John seems to be referring to the Beard Liberation Front – one of history’s most successful revolutionary movements.
48th over: West Indies 140-6 (Holder 24, Dowrich 13) It’s Jofra Archer to open the proceedings, because he’d just started an over last night. He goes for line and length rather than fire and brimstone. Shane Dowrich, looking less shaky, plays a nice push into the covers for three.
“With the Test schedule so compressed,” says Robert Speed, “the shallower bowling stocks of the West Indies have meant fatigue and wear and tear on their fast bowlers, in comparison to the freshness of the rested English fast bowlers, which may be the telling factor in the series. If only the sides could have been re-balanced in the fast bowling department somehow, for a more even contest.
“Yes.” he adds, “this is a jab at English cricket for poaching Archer from a WI cricket set-up that can hardly afford losing player resources like that, and then using that resource against WI – to add insult to injury.” It must be tough for the WI squad to see Archer play against them, but I believe they spurned the chance to pick him when he was a teenager, so there are two sides to the story.
Patrick Treacy has a question for you. “Does anyone else find it galling that Stuart Broad has played so well after being so unmissably outraged at being dropped for the first Test? As if proving that he wasn’t playing his best beforehand and the selectors were actually completely right to drop him? I have always enjoyed watching him (via the pictures in my head put there by OBO) but he does have a way of triggering my entitlement alarms.”
“Looking forward to the cricket today,” says Tim Senior on Twitter. “If England need quick runs again, surely Chris Broad will open the batting.” Ha.
Ian Forth too is pondering the top of the order. “With Sibley and Burns,” he says, “England have finally found two openers that look the part. And by ‘look the part’ I’m being literal. Men who could fit into a team photo with Boycott, Edrich, Close, Illingworth, Trueman, Bailey and Bedser without a second glance. Sleeves rolled up to the elbow revealing blacksmith forearms, clenched jaws, a surly contempt for modern music and social media. The look that says ‘I may not have an Instagram account but am prepared to score 19 off 100 balls before lunch if that’s what it takes’.” Hang on a minute. Burns has a goatee, which might well send Trueman into a rage. Sibley often has stubble, which would get Bedser muttering about whether he’d done his national service. Sibley is on Instagram, Burns is on Twitter. And being boring, while sometimes vital, isn’t the only point of being an opener. Look at Virender Sehwag, or Colin Milburn, who played with some of the people you mention.
Quote of yesterday
In this Test, Stuart Broad has been demonstrating every facet of his game – bowling, batting and above all lobbying on behalf of elderly bowlers. Yesterday Broad’s bat did most of the talking after remaining silent for several years. But his silver tongue still played its part, popping up at the close in the Big Brother room. Amid all the propaganda, there was one tasty titbit from the dressing-room: “Jimmy Anderson said he doesn’t much like bowling from the Jimmy Anderson End”.
Morning everyone. It’s all happening today. In football there’s a double face-off between the bridesmaids – Leicester v Man United and Chelsea v Wolves, as well as Villa and Watford scrapping, separately, for the right to stay up. In county cricket (remember that?) there’s an oxymoron – a friendly derby between Surrey and Middlesex at The Oval in front of a thousand masked members, 900 from Surrey, 100 from Middlesex, all of them getting their temperature checked – presumably so they can be sent home if they’re not hot under the collar about some aspect of the modern world. Meanwhile, on the international stage, there should be several chances for the umpires to take the players off in perfectly decent light.
Last night’s capitulation to the clouds ended up being the only interruption to a day that was expected to be ruined by rain. This time yesterday, we had two weather forecasts on the OBO: the official one, from the Met Office, which proved very much mistaken, and a canny tip-off from Ian Copestake on the Wirral, which was spot-on. Today the Met Office is sticking to its gloom, predicting showers from lunchtime onwards (plus some sunny spells). And the Copestake Office? “We had the usual grim clouds,” Ian reported a few minutes ago, “but the sun is starting to break through now and it is looking very good. So I’d expect the same at your end. Someone should flatten those Pennines though so Manchester can stop being a freak!” You don’t get that from the Met Office.
On the field, England are well on top and on course to regain the Wisden Trophy before it goes to the great cabinet in the sky. They’d like to wrap up the last four wickets for 37 and have the option of the follow-on, but with Jason Holder finding some batting form it’s more likely that England will soon be looking for quick runs again. It’ll be interesting to see if they banish their blockers, as they did last week, and send Ben Stokes in to go hell for leather from the start. Join me at 11am for the next instalment in this excellent mini-series.