England maintained a firm grip on the 3rd Digicel Test on day four here Wednesday but the West Indies’ most accomplished batsmen, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, carried the home team’s hopes of avoiding defeat into Thursday’s final day.
The West Indies, set an unrealistic victory target of 503 off 135 overs, limped to close on 143 for three but were satisfied to have first innings top scorer Sarwan, unbeaten on 47, and world’s number one batsman Chanderpaul, on 18, still fighting on.
England, who had sealed a first innings lead of 281, comfortably pushed their overnight 31 for one to 221 for eight before the declaration came midway through the second session.
Alastair Cook anchored the innings with 58, his second half century of the match. First innings centurion Paul Collingwood continued his fluent form with 34 off 31 balls and he and Kevin Pietersen, who hit 32 off 46 deliveries, upped the tempo once the lead reached formidable proportions.
Cook anchored the England innings in the morning session although pacer Daren Powell collected two wickets.
Night-watchman James Anderson, surviving another dropped catch off the unfortunate Fidel Edwards, compiled 21 in extending his overnight stand of 46 with Cook before he drove at Powell and edged to wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin.
Owais Shah smacked Powell for a disdainful pulled six over midwicket but the bowler gained revenge soon afterwards as a repeat effort failed and Shah’s middle stump was sent cart wheeling.
The tourists lunched at 135 for three and slumped to 145 for four soon afterwards when Cook pushed at a misbehaving delivery from Ryan Hinds and deflected a catch off the handle of the bat to slip.
Pietersen and Collingwood, England’s most innovative pair, quickly erased any thoughts of a collapse in adding 54 off just 44 balls.
Pietersen attempted a number of switch hits without much success before his circus stroke caused his downfall when he edged Sulieman Benn’s left-arm spin to Ramdin.
Once Collingwood (four fours and a six) was bowled swiping at Hinds, England innings subsided quickly with Stuart Broad run out and Andrew Flintoff perishing for a pair as he clipped a Benn full toss to midwicket.
Matt Prior (15 not out) and Steve Harmison both slogged sixes before captain Andrew Strauss chose to declare.
The West Indies began soundly with skipper Chris Gayle and Devon Smith adding 59 for the first wicket either side of tea.
But the visitors hit back in the final session as both openers and Ryan Hinds fell in the space of 37 runs.
Smith went first, leg before wicket on the back foot to Steve Harmison. The left-hander hit two fours in 21 off 60 balls.
Gayle, who played some sweet strokes in registering eight boundaries in 46 off 67 balls, was also leg before sweeping at off-spinner Graeme Swann, England’s first innings hero.
Ryan Hinds hung around for 16 deliveries before he tamely drove Stuart Broad to mid-on to leave his team jittery at 96 for three.
Sarwan, fresh off a century in the opening test in Jamaica and 94 in the first innings, continued to bat assuredly and closed in on another half century. The silky right-hander struck six fours off 87 balls in just under two hours.
His fellow Guyanese Chanderpaul was not as easy on the eye but no less effective in compiling an unbeaten 18 in just over an hour.