On Monday, the Third Day of the Third Test, the West Indies, still basking in the glow of winning the first two matches and regaining the Wisden Trophy, received some hard lessons on how harsh and taxing the game can be at this level.
The day, which began with England on 19 without loss, enjoying an overall lead of 142, saw immediate success for the hosts, with the dismissal of Rory Burns off the very first ball of the day. Little did the West Indies know that it was one of the few moments which they would savour. Soon after, the wicket taker, Keemo Paul, had to be stretchered off the field with a torn hamstring quadriceps and will not field or bowl again in the match. With Darren Bravo already nursing an injured finger, the last thing the West Indies could have afforded was another injury.
To add insult to injury, both literally and figuratively, Shimron Hetmyer, soon after, dropped a straight forward catch at third slip offered by Joe Denly off of Shannon Gabriel. It could have been the momentum changer which the home side was so desperately seeking to find a way back into the contest. The old adage ‘catches win matches’ immediately began ringing in the ears of the West Indian fans rooted in their armchairs in front of their television sets.
On Sunday morning the West Indies had managed to grab England’s last six first innings wickets for 46 runs and restrict the visitors to 277 when they seemed poised to post a large total. Following yet another opening partnership of over 50 runs, between acting Captain, Kraigg Brathwaite and newcomer John Campbell, the home side suffered the customary middle order collapse, in the face of tight bowling by speedster Mark Wood and the all-rounder Moeen Ali. Only Campbell and wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich played with any authority, and but for an eighth-wicket partnership of 41 between Dowrich and Kemar Roach, the hosts would have been dismissed for another embarrassing measly total; not that 154 is anything to write home about.
England then demonstrated to the West Indies that they were not going to be swept or be inflicted with dead rubber syndrome. The West Indies should have been taking notes as the England middle order, led from the front, by Skipper Joe Root, applied the pressure to the weakened bowling attack. With Paul absent, and the strain of playing three Test matches in four weeks beginning to take its toll on Roach and Gabriel, England made the most of the opportunity.
By the close of play, on a day which saw only four wickets fall, as compared to the sixteen on Sunday, the visitors’ total read 325, for an overall lead of 448, with half century contributions from Joe Denly and Jos Buttler, and an undefeated hundred from Root. It was the longest day in the field for the hosts in this series as England held the upper hand in all three sessions. It was a harsh reality check for the home side who had enjoyed most of the previous sessions of the series.
Yesterday’s crash to a 232-run defeat, with only Roston Chase carrying his bat for 102 undefeated, signals that the team still has a far way to go on the long ascent to the top of the ICC Test team rankings.
Always tell someone how you feel because opportunities are lost in the blink of an eye but regret can last a lifetime.