There have been many occasions when the England cricket team has had every reason to rue its luck but this Test match is currently not one of them. Very little has gone right for Brian Lara's side since he won the toss on the first morning and it is this misfortune and the bowling of Stephen Harmison which has allowed England to work themselves into a strong position in the Second Test.
Poor strokes by the West Indian batsmen and dropped catches from their fielders bring on self-inflicted misery but there was little any of Lara's side could do about the breaks in play which have hampered their progress. When persistent drizzle brought an early end to another rain-affected day Mark Butcher and Nasser Hussain had helped move England from the perilous position of 8 for 2 to within 154 runs of their opponents.
Both batsmen rode their luck in testing conditions and were grateful that rain had kept their time out in the middle down to a minimum on an afternoon perfect for bowling. The overhead conditions at Queen's Park Oval change the nature of the pitch and England's remaining batsmen will wake up this morning hoping to see blue cloudless skies through their hotel window.
After spending four and a half hours watching the groundstaff drag the covers on and off the ground, Butcher and Hussain needed to show plenty of application to survive an 85-minute interrogation in the evening. Both should have been out Butcher caught at second slip and Hussain lbw but it required equal measures of luck and good judgement to survive.
And it could have been worse for the pair. Six years ago they would have had Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, rather than Corey Collymore and Adam Sandford, working their outside edge.
It was the first break in play which provided England with their biggest bonus of the day. Pedro Collins and Tino Best had just removed Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick with the new ball and batting looked a far from enjoyable exercise. Roared in by the home crowd the pair bowled with control and aggression but this came to a premature end when the first of the days showers rolled in from the Northern Hills.
These helpful conditions caused by the pitch sweating under a tarpaulin sheet were superbly exploited by Stephen Harmison, who added six more wickets to the nine he captured in the first Test. But without help from above the West Indies batting line-up would have been far harder to dismiss.
After bowling West Indies out Vaughan would have hoped to see his side in a commanding position by the close of play. But this failed to materialise when the England captain fell to Collins in the first over of England's reply. The left-arm seamer, playing in his first Test for a year, swung the new ball back into England's opener and trapped him plum in front.
Trescothick is not having a good tour of the West Indies. The Somerset opener has looked unconvincing in each of England's matches here and could have been dismissed twice before he weakly pulled a Best bouncer to Adam Sandford at square leg. In Best's first over West Indies went up for a catch down the leg-side but umpire, Billy Bowden, gave Trescothick the benefit of the doubt. Because of the ferocity of the appeal the television replay was studied closely. It revealed that the ball had clipped the left-handers glove on its way through to the keeper.
To the next ball, the left-hander slashed wildly at a ball and was dropped by a diving Dwayne Smith in the gully. Fortunately for the home side the chance did not prove costly but Trescothick must be disappointed to have made the most of his good fortune.
England took just 37 balls to wrap up the West Indies first innings. Ridley Jacobs was the first to go when he inadvisedly attempted to take a second run to Ashley Giles, after the left-arm spinner fumbled the ball fielding at third man. West Indies were moving along nicely at the time and 13 runs had been added to the overnight score of 189 for 8.
There is much to admire about the durability of Jacobs but his running between the wickets is not one of his strengths. On Friday evening the 36-year-old was involved in a mid-wicket mix up which culminated in Adam Sandford being run out. But yesterday's error had even direr consequences for Jacobs. He ran himself out.
It was fitting that the Durham paceman should claim the final wicket because it is his bowling which continues to allow England to dominate this series. After hitting the top of Collins' off-stump the ball flew over the head of Read and down towards the sightscreen at the Media Stand End. Jones ran from fine-leg to collect the ball as a memento for his partner. No doubt it will find a position close to that Harmison took 7 for 12 with a week ago.
Harmison's final figures of 6 for 61 were his second best for England and took his tally of wickets in this series to 15. With five possible innings still to be bowled in the 25-year-old has an excellent chance of collecting the record number of wickets by an Englishman on a tour of the Caribbean.
This currently stands at 27. It is jointly held by John Snow 1967-68 and a certain Angus Fraser who enjoyed bowling here in 1997-98 almost as much as Harmison.
Second Test Scoreboard
West Indies won toss
West Indies - First Innings (Overnight: 189-8; C H Gayle 62)
R D Jacobs run out (Giles-Read, TV replay) 40
P T Collins b Harmison 10
C D Colleymore not out 3
Extras (lb7, w6, nb4) 17
Total (60.1 overs) 208
Fall (contd): 9-202 (Jacobs)
Bowling: Hoggard 15-3-38-1; Harmison 20.1-5-61-6; Flintoff 10-3-38-0; Giles 3-0-20-0; Jones 12-2-44-1.
England - First Innings
M E Trescothick c Sanford b Best 1
M P Vaughan lbw Collins 0
M A Butcher not out 25
N Hussain not out 20
Extras (lb6, nb2) 8
Total (for 2, 24.2 overs) 54
Fall: 1-2 (Vaughan), 2-8 (Trescothick).
To Bat: G P Thorpe, A Flintoff, ÝC M W Read, A F Giles, S P Jones, M J Hoggard, S J Harmison.
Bowling: Collins 9-5-15-1; Best 6-2-15-1; Sanford 6-3-17-0; Colleymore 3.2-2-1-0.
Umpires: B F Bowden (NZ) and D J Harper (Aus).
Third umpire: E A Nicholls (WI). Match referee: M J Procter (SA)
Third Test: 1-5 April, Barbados. Fourth Test: 10-14 April, Antigua.
First One-Day International: 18 April, Guyana; Second ODI: 24 April, Trinidad; Third ODI: 25 April, Trinidad. Fourth ODI: 28 April, Grenada; Fifth ODI: 1 May, St Lucia; Sixth ODI: 2 May, St Lucia; Seventh ODI: 5 May, Barbados.Reuse content