Most of what has happened in the First Test has reflected the state of the art and the order of the chart. England are No 1, slick, polished, confident, and West Indies are No 7, barely bubbling under, confused, uncertain.
There were periods on the third day at Lord's when the tourists were in the hunt and had their opponents on the back foot. But those periods never lasted long enough to count. Before too long the proper order was restored and sometime today England will take a 1-0 lead in the series. Nothing has happened so far to suggest that they will fail to make it 3-0 early next month.
Trailing by 155 runs on first innings, that had been reduced to 35 by the close but for the loss of four wickets. Shiv Chanderpaul is still there, as he has been still there for most of the past decade, scoring 34 from 94 balls, but realistically only he stands between England and a swift victory.
Chanderpaul is the Caribbean rock. The 17,132 people who have bought tickets for today, plus any members who might be of a mind to see the climax, had better trust the London Underground is not subject to weekend go-slows. Yet it has not been the utterly one-sided contest that was feared. West Indies, while a shadow of their immortal teams of the Seventies and Eighties, are much, much better than the distracted, apathetic squad which came to this country three years ago. But the bottom line is that England expect to win and West Indies do not, which does not explain the whole difference between them but is a significant factor.
West Indies unexpectedly took the seven England wickets they needed before the second session was half-done but they allowed the England lower order to score priceless runs, so that the deficit was greater than it should have been. Even then, they responded with a thoroughly sensible opening partnership at the start of their second innings, but just as it seemed the new ball might be seen off, three wickets fell in nine balls without addition and they were right in the mire.
The day may be remembered down the years as the one when Jonny Bairstow played the first of his hundreds of innings for England, although it was not, so to speak, his first hundred. It would be foolish to become too excited about a mere vignetteof 16.
Yet it contained three of the crispest strokes anyone could wish to see, all of which went for four: an assertive punch through midwicket, a clip to square leg and a push through point. This boy has something, and when he executed an impeccable run-out with a direct hit on the stumps later in the day it was possible to think he has something more.
Proceedings began with the continuation of what has become a little tradition. Andrew Strauss, the England captain, had been not out overnight on a hundred five times before in his career and on no occasion had he added more than another six runs. In other words, he tended to get out quickly on the following morning.
This time he lasted three overs into the day, scoring one run, before he got an inside edge to a ball from Kemar Roach which darted back and bounced. He was given not out at first but a review indicated the faintest contact.
Bairstow, Matt Prior and Stuart Broad, though not Tim Bresnan, who failed to score, all assisted Ian Bell to increase the score. But there was movement for West Indies where there had been none the previous day and batting looked a different proposition. The ball cut dangerously in both directions, with and against the slope.
There were three wickets in his first Test for Shannon Gabriel, a robust 23-year-old Trinidadian fast bowler from the traditional Caribbean mould. If it was not the performance of the Archangel Gabriel, it was one of promise.
The key partnership for England was for the ninth wicket, when Graeme Swann scored his 30 from 25 balls, standing tall at the crease and driving serenely on the off side. It was only to be wondered why West Indies did not put a couple past his nose end to remind him not to take liberties – but Swann was allowed to keep his nose clean.
Why the ball moved about as it did is difficult to understand, since weather conditions were almost a replica of the previous day. Maybe West Indies' bowlers were more skilful for the experience. In the circumstances, with 55 overs left in the day, England must have been encouraged to suppose that they could make lethal, possibly terminal strikes.
Adrian Barath and Kieran Powell batted with a deal of common sense, being prepared to leave the ball instead of playing a shot a ball as has been their wont. This was proper Test cricket and England's supreme bowlers were being denied. And then disaster.
Barath edged a ball from Tim Bresnan that left him sharply, Powell played a horrendous ill-judged hook and Kirk Edwards was run out by Bairstow backing up in a ridiculous mix-up. It was 36 for 3 and effectively all over. Darren Bravo was bowled by Swann's arm ball, and though The Rock and Marlon Samuels took it to a fourth day, and though England still have work to do, they will presumably do it.
England won toss
West Indies: First innings 243 (S Chanderpaul 87; S C J Broad 7-72)
England: First innings (overnight 259-3: I J L Trott 58)
*A J Strauss c Ramdin b Roach 122/258/19/0
I R Bell c Powell b Gabriel 61/105/4/0
J M Bairstow lbw b Roach 16/27/3/0
†M J Prior b Gabriel 19/18/2/0
T T Bresnan c Ramdin b Sammy 0/6/0/0
S C J Broad b F H Edwards 10/22/1/0
G P Swann b Gabriel 30/25/6/0
J M Anderson not out 0/5/0/0
Extras (b9 lb3 nb12) 24
Total (113.3 overs) 398
Fall (cont): 4-266, 5-292, 6-320, 7-323, 8-342, 9-397.
Bowling F H Edwards 25-1-88-1, K A J Roach 25-3-108-3, S T Gabriel 21.3-2-60-3, D J G Sammy 28-1-92-2, M N Samuels 14-3-38-1.
West Indies: Second innings
A B Barath c Prior b Bresnan 24/42/4/0
K O A Powell c Bell b Broad 8/38/1/0
K A Edwards run out (Bairstow) 0/4/0/0
D M Bravo b Swann 21/57/3/0
S Chanderpaul not out 34/95/4/0
M N Samuels not out 26/65/4/0
Extras (lb7) 5
Total (4 wkts, 50 overs) 118
Fall 1-36, 2-36, 3-36, 4-65.
To bat †D Ramdin, *D J G Sammy, K A J Roach, S T Gabriel, F H Edwards.
Bowling J M Anderson 14-6-21-0, S C J Broad 13-4-31-1, T T Bresnan 15-6-40-1, G P Swann 8-3-21-1.
Umpires Aleem Dar (Pak) and M Erasmus (SA).
TV Umpire Asad Rauf (Pak).
Match referee R S Mahanama (SL).Reuse content