SOUTHAMPTON, England – Speedsters Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph rocked England in the final session with fiery spells as the hosts collapsed spectacularly losing five wickets for 30 runs in a nightmare 75-ball period, to leave West Indies with an excellent chance of winning the opening Test on Saturday.
Cruising at 249 for three late on the penultimate day with Zak Crawley and captain Ben Stokes well entrenched, England suddenly lost their way in the face of Gabriel and Joseph’s hostility, and limped to the close on 284 for eight – a lead of 170 runs heading into Sunday’s pivotal final day at the Ageas Bowl.
Gabriel finished with three for 62 while Joseph claimed two for 40 to rescue a day which seemed headed England’s way from the outset.
Part-time off-spinner Roston Chase had earlier taken two for 71, his wickets coming in the first and second sessions respectively.
Zak Crawley, in only his fifth Test, top-scored with a career-best 76 while opener Dom Sibley chipped in with exactly 50 – his second half-century in his seventh Test.
For the second time in the match, Stokes got a start but failed to carry on when he perished for 46 while opener Rory Burns hit 42 in a 72-run opening stand with Sibley, which got England away to an excellent start once they resumed on 15 without loss.
Having won the first session to be 79 for one at lunch and also dominated the second to be 168 for three at tea, England seemed poised to bat West Indies out of the game in the final session, especially with Crawley and Stokes taking control.
The 22-year-old Crawley, unbeaten on 38 at tea, struck eight fours off 127 balls while the left-handed Stokes, yet to score at the final interval, faced 79 deliveries and blasted six fours.
Boundaries flowed at the start of the final session, Crawley punching Chase to the ropes at cover to move into the 40s before collecting two more fours through point in the bowler’s next over – the first a cut and the second a reverse sweep – to bring up his second Test fifty.
Chase, bowling in tandem with part-time off-spinner Kraigg Brathwaite, proved ineffective and even when Gabriel and the wicket-less Kemar Roach were handed the second new ball after 11 overs, there was no immediate success for West Indies.
In fact, Gabriel was punched to the cover boundary off the back foot by Crawley in his second over back and when Stokes smashed back-to-back fours through the off-side, the over had leaked 13 runs and West Indies were running out of ideas.
But Holder quickly rung the changes, introducing himself for Gabriel and struck in his second over, removing Stokes to a catch by Shai Hope at the first of two gullies, the left-hander sparring at a widish ball that lifted.
Stokes’s dismissal opened the floodgates for West Indies and the tide of the game shifted. In the following over, Crawley chipped a return catch to Joseph and Jos Buttler perished four overs later, bowled off the inside edge to Joseph for nine after being reprieved by DRS in the previous over when he was adjudged lbw to Holder.
With England reeling on 265 for six and just under half-hour left in the day, Holder summoned Gabriel again and he provided two key strikes in the second over of his new spell.
Dom Bess (3), earlier dropped by wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich off Joseph on one, lost his off stump to the first delivery and Ollie Pope played on to the final delivery for 12, after failing to negotiate a lifter that jagged back.
Earlier, Chase grabbed the only wicket to fall in the first session when Burns scooped a short ball to John Campbell at point, in the fourth over before lunch.
Sibley, who faced 164 balls and struck four fours, added a further 41 for the second wicket with Joe Denly (29) before glancing a leg-side catch to Dowrich off Gabriel, on the stroke of the first hour after lunch.
Denly faced 70 balls and counted three fours but perished with tea approaching, clipping Chase to Holder at short mid-wicket.