Kraigg Brathwaite’s grinding, marathon 160 hauled West Indies to within 96 runs of England’s first innings total with the tourists still entertaining the prospect of forcing victory going into the final day of the second Test at the Kensington Oval.
At stumps on the fourth day on Saturday, England were 40 without loss in their second innings, an overall lead of 136, after the home side were eventually dismissed after tea for 411 in reply to the visitors’ first innings effort of 507 for nine declared.
As with the drawn first Test a week earlier in Antigua when England went into the last day at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium ahead by 153 runs with nine wickets in hand, the possibilities of an outright result mean there will be a greater level of interest than for the preceding four days of generally tedious cricket.
Brathwaite, who was eventually bowled by Jack Leach, played throughout as he does best with the West Indies captain occupying the crease for ten minutes short of 12 hours during which he faced 489 deliveries and stroked 17 fours.
Leach, whose innings-leading tally of three wickets came at a cost of 118 runs off a phenomenal 69.5 overs, may yet be called upon in the final afternoon to take advantage of whatever assistance there may be for the spinners even though the left-arm slow bowler had to work long and hard for his successes over two days of play in the first innings.
He ended the West Indies effort after tea by trapping wicketkeeper-batsman Joshua da Silva leg-before and England’s opening pair of Alex Lees and Zak Crawley comfortably negotiated 15 overs to the close of play.
Saqib Mahmood, who was denied a first Test wicket on the third day when the delivery which bowled Jermaine Blackwood was determined to be a no-ball, finally tasted success in the first over after lunch and then added the scalp of Veerasammy Permaul in the final session for good measure.
"It wasn’t a massive celebration from me because I was looking to see where my front foot landed to make sure it wasn’t another no-ball," said Mahmood in describing the moment when Jason Holder fell to him via a well-judged catch by fellow-debutant Matt Fisher at mid-on.
"It was just a feeling of relief more than anything else."