Antigua Recreation Ground, Antigua & Barbuda: Off-Spinner Graeme Swann claimed five wickets here Tuesday as the West Indies pressed the self-destruct button to hand England a position of superiority after three days of the 3rd Digicel Test at the Antigua Recreation Ground.
Swann claimed five for 57, only the second five-wicket haul by a spinner on the ground, as the home team, overnight 55 for one, stumbled to 285 all out in reply to the visitors’ formidable 566 for nine declared. Andrew Flintoff, battling on despite fitness concerns, took three for 47.
Only Ramnaresh Sarwan, with a silky 94, provided assured resistance but he was among the culpable batsmen who gifted their wicket away.
England, in just over half hour before the close, extended their advantage to 312 runs with two days remaining, reaching 31 for one in their second innings.
The day started well for the West Indies as Devon Smith and night-watchman Daren Powell batted with discipline and application against a testing opening burst to stretch their overnight partnership to 64.
But just as the England mood was beginning to flag, Smith erased a good morning’s work with an ill-judged stroke that caused his demise two balls after the drinks break.
The Grenadian left-hander compiled 38 of 90 balls with six fours when he attempted to launch Swann over the leg side, missed and was bowled off his pad.
Powell battled on gamely in his longest-ever test innings, showing rare restraint before Swann completed a satisfying morning by claiming the fast bowler for 22. Powell, who faced 86 balls in just over two hours, edged to slip where Paul Collingwood gobbled a fine catch to his left.
The West Indies lunched uncertainly at 132 for three but Sarwan and Ryan Hinds stalled the England attack in a fourth wicket stand of 70 after the break.
Sarwan, following on from his 107 in the opening Digicel Test in Jamaica, was typically assured and played some delightful strokes, mainly through the off side.
Hinds, on his 28th birthday, put an uncertain start behind him to lend solid support to Sarwan. But just after crossing 200, England’s talisman Flintoff, fending off a dodgy hip, claimed Hinds for 27 to a wicket-keeper’s catch to shift the momentum.
One over later, England were fully on top at 201 for five as Stuart Broad removed the anchor that is Shivnarine Chanderpaul for one. The world’s No.1 batsman touched a drive through to wicket-keeper Matt Prior.
Broad should have had further success before tea but could not hang on to a sharp return catch off Sarwan when he was 63.
Sarwan and the obdurate Brendan Nash shared a half century stand either side of the break before Sarwan threw away a chance of a 13th Test century.
The Guyanese was enticed by the possibility of bringing up his century with a six but only managed to haul Swann’s off-break to Flintoff at straight midwicket. Sarwan’s innings spanned 200 minutes, 133 balls and was spiced with 14 fours and a six.
Ramdin was another to perish with a weak effort, chipping a full toss back to a delighted Swann next ball to leave West Indies on 251 for seven and the rookie off-spinner on a hat-trick.
Nash and Jerome Taylor, both Jamaican but as opposite as could be in every way, put together 27 for the eighth wicket to stem the tide briefly.
But the second new ball brought a swift end to the innings.
Nash, after spending 81 balls over 18, deflected Flintoff’s second ball on return to second slip.
Swann claimed his fifth wicket when Sulieman Benn was clearly LBW prodding forward tentatively and Flintoff ended proceedings when Taylor, who scored 19 off 37 balls, skied a pull.
Taylor and especially Fidel Edwards made the last half hour uncomfortable for England, who chose not to enforce the follow on despite a lead of 281.
Edwards claimed the deserved wicket of first innings century-maker Andrew Strauss, caught at second slip, and should have added the scalp of night-watchman James Anderson. Left-hander Anderson was dropped in the final over by Ryan Hinds at third slip.
But England were still firmly in the driving seat as they chased a series-levelling victory.