England collapse again as West Indies look good for series victory

The tourists collapsed to 43 for four on the third afternoon.

Joe Root was out cheaply again (Ricardo Mazalan/AP)
Joe Root was out cheaply again (Ricardo Mazalan/AP)

England’s brittle batting was in danger of costing them another series after Josh Da Silva’s gritty century put the West Indies in control of the decisive third Test in Grenada.

The tourists collapsed to 43 for four on the third afternoon after a miserable morning session saw them buckle under the weight of Da Silva’s magnificent 100 not out, celebrated with tears in his eyes in front of a feverish home crowd.

A thoroughly uninspired attack allowed the lead to swell from 28 overnight to 93 over the course of two-and-a-quarter hours, with flat bowling and passive captaincy allowing the Trinidadian wicketkeeper to dictate terms.

Kyle Mayers took three wickets for the West Indies (Ricardo Mazalan/AP)

They had at least been shown how to perform in these conditions but their response lacked the clarity and determination that worked so well for Da Silva and, by tea, their top order had imploded.

Kyle Mayers starred with the ball, turning his canny medium-pacers into lethal weapons as Joe Root, Dan Lawrence and Ben Stokes took turns to come undone. Zak Crawley had earlier been hustled out in a maddeningly predictable manner by Jayden Seales.

With opener Alex Lees and Jonny Bairstow at the crease there was still some hope of resistance, but it would now take a rousing shift in fortunes to get out of jail and avoid a winless winter in the Test arena.

With the West Indies 232 for eight and the second new ball just four overs old, England started the day with designs on two quick wickets and a swift change of innings.

Saqib Mahmood came close to delivering, getting the stubborn Kemar Roach caught behind in his initial burst and then trapping last man Seales in front of leg stump.

Had the umpire’s finger gone up, England would have been batting again with a deficit of 41 but with a shake of the head and no reviews left, the moment disappeared. Having previously wasted their DRS allocation on gambles, England had shot themselves in the foot.

It would prove a big moment as Da Silva astutely managed his partnership with Seales, with the pair adding 52 to drag the game away from a weary, heavy-legged England side.

The 23-year-old was richly deserving of a century and spent almost six hours in getting there before adding the finishing touches just before lunch with a showman’s timing.

Josh Da Silva finished with an unbeaten century (Ricardo Mazalan/AP)

He had barely allowed himself any indulgences throughout his stay, but with the clock ticking down he picked his moment with aplomb. With 92 to his name, he threaded Craig Overton for two to third man, then biffed him for successive boundaries down the ground with a previously-unseen swagger.

Both arms were hurled towards the sky before the second stroke had even reached the ropes, with steel drums, horns and roars of approval echoing around the National Stadium.

He richly deserved to finish not out and did so after a bizarre reprieve, heading all the way back to the pavilion before a half-hearted review gave him a second chance. Root took a sharp caught and bowled to pick up Seales a few seconds later, doing what his over-heated, underwhelming seamers could not.

Despite a sizeable deficit, England had seen that there were no terrors in the surface and should have been looking to make up for the ills of a poor first-innings. Instead, Crawley drove two boundaries before nicking off eyeing more of the same, a feature of his game that is becoming corrosive.

Lees was far from convincing, uncertain around off stump and surviving a couple of edges that could have ended his stay, but at least he was still there at the break.

The same could not be said of his next three partners as Mayers ran riot at with his 76mph nibblers.

Root chased a wide one and carved to slip for five, Lawrence offered no stroke at all to one that tailed into his off stump and Stokes toed one through to the keeper as he attempted to withdraw his bat. It was a hopelessly messy sequence showing all the scrambled hallmarks of England’s Ashes debacle.

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