91st over: England 267-6 (Buttler 63, Bess 0) So Woakes goes for one, his highest score of the series. And the gamble of putting him up to No.7 has gone awry.
Wicket! Woakes b Roach 1 (England 267-6)
Another one! Woakes tries to cut, only gets his bat to the 45 rather than the horizontal, and plays on. Is this, by any chance, an England collapse?
90th over: England 267-5 (Buttler 63, Woakes 1) Apart from the odd no-ball, Gabriel is getting everything right: length, line, movement, consistency. Woakes is relieved to escape with a quick single after playing a push so straight that it breaks the stumps at the other end. Buttler is watchful, then pounces when Gabriel’s inswinger strays onto leg stump, clipping the first boundary of the day.
What a shame that Pope didn’t get a hundred. He saved the day for England, gave great entertainment, made runs in a home Test for the first time and even spoke candidly afterwards, about how there’s no escape when you go back to your room and look out on the pitch where you just got out. At 22 he is a wonderful prospect.
Wicket!! Pope b Gabriel 91 (England 262-5)
Castled! Shannon Gabriel gets his due as his nip-backer bursts through Pope’s defences and produces the fast bowler’s favourite sound. First blood to West Indies.
89th over: England 262-4 (Pope 91, Buttler 59) Buttler plays the first purposeful stroke of the morning, a crisp tuck for two, and follows up with a forward-defensive so immaculate that it could have come out of Chris Woakes’s bathroom cabinet.
88th over: England 260-4 (Pope 91, Buttler 57) Buttler’s turn to prod and miss, at Gabriel, who follows up with an LBW appeal, politely turned down by Michael Gough, probably because of a hint of an inside edge. The ball is moving more than the scoreboard. Buttler escapes, in two senses, when he gets an inside edge on a no-ball. And then Pope is dropped by Rakheem Cornwall at slip, a much easier chance than the one he caught yesterday to get rid of Rory Burns.
On Twitter, Bernard Walsh responds to Gary Naylor (10:40). “I’m amazed that Buttler has ever made as many as 144 in red ball cricket, the red rose county’s 4th best wicket keeper has certainly never had an innings like that for @lancscricket.”
87th over: England 258-4 (Pope 91, Buttler 56) From the Statham end it’s Kemar Roach, who has Ollie Pope playing and missing, twice, as he tries to push out into the covers. His feet are moving, as ever, but his eye isn’t in yet.
86th over: England 258-4 (Pope 91, Buttler 56) You’re not going to believe this, but we even have some watery sunshine. Shannon Gabriel creaks into action, finishes his over and comes close to bowling Buttler with one that looked wider of off stump than it was.
“Great innings from the Pope yesterday,” tweets Robert Ellson. “Beats me why people aren’t calling him His Oliness. #popepuns”
The covers are off! And the players are out there. “It’s cold, it’s blustery, the floodlights are on,” says Ian Ward, “but it’s dry.”
“I send you good weather news!” says Ian Copestake. “I have seen actual blue sky! Okay, this is on the Wirral and the Manchester micro-weather system will have its own ideas but like a Buttler century it might just happen.” Ha.
The covers are on. In a mixed-up world, it’s all we can ask for.
And the first message of the morning comes from… Gary Naylor! “Hi @TimdeLisle.” Hi Gary, do you ever – sorry, you were saying? “I was amazed to find out earlier that Jos Buttler’s highest first class score (144 off 268 deliveries) was notched 10 years ago! On this pitch against this weary attack, he’ll never have a better chance of beating that.” That’s a very good spot. Though it also has a whiff of the curse of the commentator.
Morning everyone and welcome back to one of sport’s oldest and most thrilling contests: cricket v the weather. No Test series has ever had more matches in Manchester than this one, and Manchester has not let us down. Today may not turn out as bad as it looked like being a couple of days ago, which, in Manchester, is about as good as it gets. The latest from the Met Office gives a 60pc chance of rain delaying the start and a 10pc chance of rain in every hour thereafter. That sounds like enough for the match to move along.
England find themselves in an unexpectedly strong position. Put in to bat again by Jason Holder, they subsided to 122 for four. Ben Stokes only got 20: if there had been a crowd, they would have asked for their money back. And because of Stokes being unlikely to bowl, England were already down to their last two proper batsmen – neither of them in great form. On such moments, series turn. Ollie Pope batted like Ollie Pope abroad (Test average 62), not Ollie Pope at home (Test average 16 until yesterday). Jos Buttler batted like Jos Buttler in the year from May 2018 (higher average than Joe Root), not Jos Buttler in the year after the World Cup (lower average than Joe Denly). Together they added 136 in 38 overs of stylish defiance.
For West Indies, the best thing about the day was the presence of Rakheem Cornwall. How that missing crowd would have warmed to him – larger than life and taking a blinder of a slip catch while wearing two hats and not appearing to move. His bowling didn’t go so well, and Holder may have missed a trick by not letting his other off-spinner, Roston Chase, carry on fooling the batsmen with his deceptive simplicity.
The game, as ever, will be intriguing as long as it actually happens. Do join me before 11 for another exciting weather update.