Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott put on England’s highest opening stand since Perth in December 2013 as they strove to provide a sound platform in response to West Indies’ 299. The second Test has stuttered along, again losing significant time to rain, but the surer footwork of their two openers allowed England to end the second day with an eye on the sort of promontory from which they can dictate the rest of the game.
Both were happy to leave the ball, intent on not departing into the sunset, and Trott in particular looked more composed at the crease, his head more still, as he whipped the ball off his pads in trademark style. Not having to face Jerome Taylor would certainly have helped, although the ball did not swing much for West Indies on a clear evening. A Trott nudge to fine leg brought the pair their first 50 stand as openers.
Devendra Bishoo, whose cameo with the bat added to England’s earlier frustrations during a last-wicket stand of 52, caused Cook a couple of moments worry with the ball as well. One delivery was squeezed past slip off the outside edge, although it was possibly a bump ball, while Cook was also dropped at short leg by Jermaine Blackwood. It was a tough chance, straight off the face of the bat and at ankle height, which hit Blackwood’s right hand and rebounded out.
When he had made 17, Cook went past Alec Stewart on England’s Test run-scorers’ list, with only his mentor, Graham Gooch, above him. The only figure that will matter to him when the innings resumes is three figures, a mark he has not reached for almost two years.
There was no sense that Cook had turned his mind to batting when his bowlers were held up during the afternoon session. England had, by general consensus, failed to make full use of winning the toss and inserting West Indies but, led by Stuart Broad, they were more clinical with the second new ball on Wednesday. Broad finished with 4 for 61 and was appreciably quicker but England then came across a familiar foe: No. 11.
After Marlon Samuels’ obduracy was rewarded with a seventh Test hundred he was one of four West Indies wickets to fall in 10 overs. But Bishoo and Shannon Gabriel provided further needle in taking their side to a respectable total, considering the conditions in which they had been asked to bat. Both set Test bests during a merry hit before Moeen Ali eventually removed Bishoo, lbw despite a review.
Play began late for the second day running, with Grenada’s National Stadium cloaked by low cloud and regular bursts of rain. Samuels, having counterattacked late on the first day, was 94 not out overnight and England would have wanted to make him wait even longer before reaching the milestone – the persistent showers aided their cause. It was around 2pm local time, more than four hours after the scheduled start, when Samuels finally got there.
During a 45-minute morning session, Samuels soaked up 24 balls for the addition of three runs, purposefully retrenching his position. He added 11 balls and a single to his tally during a brief, two-over window of play before another rain break, then when the players returned his patience finally ran out and he reached to steer James Anderson over gully via a top edge.
Like nearby Mount Saint Catherine – or perhaps Kick ‘Em Jenny, off Grenada’s coast – the seemingly dormant volcano now erupted. Samuels threw a wild, unsuccessful drive at Anderson’s next delivery and followed that with a flat-footed swipe to send the ball to slip, where Ian Bell held on. Anderson’s celebration was a touch volcanic, too, (Lick ‘Em Jimmy, perhaps?) and he had to be told to calm down by umpire Bruce Oxenford in the wake of Samuels’ depature.
England seem to rub Samuels up the right way, even as they attempt the opposite. He averages 62.88 against them, compared to an overall Test mark of 36.27, and does not mind chatting about it. Ben Stokes’ attempts to sledge him on Tuesday prompted an inimitable response afterwards: “if Marlon Samuels is 150 and Ben Stokes is with the ball in hand tomorrow, it will be very interesting.” Sadly we did not get to test the hypothesis.
Samuels fell to the 18th delivery with the new ball and, with his resistance broken, West Indies collapsed in the manner some had expected them to do on Tuesday. Broad’s pace was up above 90mph as he had Denesh Ramdin caught behind and then removed Jason Holder and Kemar Roach in a familiar burst that saw West Indies go from 223 for 5 to 247 for 9.
Holder, who scored his maiden hundred in Antigua last week, looked in good touch as he stroked four down the ground and pulled both Anderson and Broad for flat sixes. England thought they had him when he mistimed a pull to Moeen running in from deep midwicket, only for the TV umpire to rule it had not carried, but Broad picked him up later in the same over with another legcutter, like the one to dismiss Samuels in the first Test.
The morning session was due to start early but rain arrived to cause an hour’s delay. When the teams did take the field, Stokes was called upon, perhaps to try and inflame Samuels. England attempted a speculative review against Ramdin from the first ball of the day, as he swished at a short Stokes delivery down the leg side – Jos Buttler immediately threw the ball up in celebration but even without the added clarity of Hot Spot, replays suggested it was some way from making contact with the glove.
The players were soon off the field again but the hokey-cokey really began with the second new ball. St George’s has proved conducive to swing but Cook and Trott will be hopeful that there is less in, out, shake it all about from here on.