West Indies' good work undone in a flash
Kirk Edwards, the West Indies vice-captain came to Trent Bridge in the morning, reported sick, and returned to the team hotel once the doctor had diagnosed he was suffering from flu. Nobody, including Edwards himself, would have been overly concerned by his absence as everyone expected England to build a substantial lead on a flat pitch under bright and blue skies.
But the expected script does not always come to pass. The persistence of Ravi Rampaul and an explosive spell of fast bowling from Kemar Roach in the first session spoilt England's lunch and forced them back on the field much earlier than expected with a slender lead.
Facing a deficit of only 58, and with seven sessions remaining, Darren Sammy would have told his batsmen to see out the 34 overs left in the day and lay a platform. Resolute centuries from Sammy and Marlon Samuels in the first innings and comfortable knocks from England's pair of Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen had made it clear that the pitch was still full of runs.
Yet to the horror of the motley crew of West Indies fans gathered in the New Stand, not to mention Sammy and Ottis Gibson in the dressing room, England's fast men broke the spine of the opposition batting effortlessly. Two wickets fell in three balls during the penultimate over of the day with Edwards the second of those. As things turned out, he had to drag himself out of his bed having received an SOS call from the team management once the West Indies openers had failed to survive even half an hour. But Edwards only lasted two deliveries and became the joke of the day.
It would be unwise to share that joke with Rampaul, who did not mask his annoyance at the end of the day, blaming his batsmen for offering such weak resistance. He was right to vent his fury and the same would have been true of his bowling colleagues Roach and Sammy, all of whom, having copped some body blows at various points in their bowling spells, had bounced back to deny England gaining the upper hand.
Even at Lord's last week, West Indies' bowlers had revealed their heart for the fight despite the failure of batsmen in the first innings. On that occasion England were 259 for 3 at stumps on the second day but were restricted to 398. Here in Nottingham, Strauss and Pietersen had put England in a dominant position by Saturday evening.
That the England juggernaut did not flatten the visitors' spirits on Sunday morning was only because Rampaul showed what a smart bowler he is. Rampaul is only deceptive because people wonder how a man of his heavy girth and round hips can even hurl the ball at 80-85 mph. A quick arm takes care of the velocity while a thinking brain helps Rampaul utilise both the new and old balls smartly. His biggest asset is he will not stop coming back at you.
Pietersen was beaten by a ball that ducked into him due to the reverse swing Rampaul managed to generate early in the morning. With his stifling wicket-to-wicket line, Rampaul continued to strangle the batsmen for runs. In the process, he also managed to build the confidence of Roach, who had returned after the horrific Saturday where he became the no-ball king.
Roach started the new day fresh. All those doubts about over-stepping seemed in the distant past (although he would bowl three later) as he came up with an aggressive first spell, which exposed the technical deficiencies of the inexperienced Jonny Bairstow.
At the other end Sammy was all perseverance despite going at four an over in his first 20-overs, which again questioned his ability to fulfil the third seamer's role. But he rallied, tempting Strauss to chase a wide delivery, and be caught at the wicket.
It was a frustrating day for West Indies; their bowlers had learned from their mistakes the previous evening, but the batsmen continued to repeat the same errors.
"It is tough watching six batsmen get out especially after the bowlers worked so hard in the first two sessions," Rampaul said. "It isn't easy to bowl 120-odd overs, to bowl out a team and then looking at your batsmen not applying themselves and losing their wickets. I don't fault any one of them. I just give them confidence and ask them to focus more; apply themselves more."
Rampaul admitted England were in control now but urged Samuels and Sammy, the two centurions for West Indies in this series, still to believe. "It is quite hard to set a target after being six down," he said. "Tomorrow our batsmen need to go out there and apply themselves. The early damage has already been done."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo