England A struggling against hostile Leewards attack
England A were in danger of recording their first defeat in 43 games after losing three vital wickets against Leeward Islands in Anguilla today.
Replying to an intimidating 402 set by the Leewards this afternoon, England A were 119 for three at the close of the second day's play with key batsmen Ian Ward and John Crawley back in the pavilion.
John Crawley : Half Century
Photo John Dawson
Responsibility for avoiding the follow on now lies on the shoulders of skipper Mark Alleyne and England A debutant Ian Bell who suffered a bumpy baptism at the hands of Leeward's hostile bowlers on a pitch that is regarded as the fastest in the Caribbean.
But at the close, the 18 year-old Warwickshire batsman, who arrived in Anguilla on Wednesday having spent six weeks batting on slow Indian pitches with the England Under 19 squad, was still there battling for survival, having seen off the worse of a painful induction.
He was hit on the arm and the hip in his early overs facing genuine pace from Wilden Cornwall and Ricky Christopher. He was dropped at gully before getting off the mark and he benefitted from a Ridley Jacobs fumble over the stumps while still some way out of his crease.
But he responded courageously hitting Cornwall's next ball through a vacant mid wicket for four.
It was a gutsy performance from the young prospect and finishing unbeaten on 16, one that impressed his senior colleagues.
"He had a difficult time of it but he did very well and he is still there which says a lot for him," said vice-captain John Crawley, with whom he shared a stand of 37 runs.
Crawley himself made a stylish half-century from 105 balls but was given out leg before to fast bowler Goldwin Prince having added a single to his total.
"I was annoyed to get out at that stage because it is an excellent batting track and as we saw in their innings, you can make runs on it. But we have some good batting to come and we need a big partnership if we are to save the follow on."
But with 149 runs still to get to reach the follow on target, England A have a tough day ahead of them to ensure they leave Anguilla with Busta Cup points before moving onto the semi-finals of the next stage of the tournament, the Busta International Shield.
Chris Schofield earlier wrapped up the Leeward Islands tail taking the last four wickets for 38 runs. Resuming on 299 for five, Jacobs quickly completed the 13 runs needed for his century. It came from 152 balls, included 13 boundaries and he illustrated in one innings the depth he adds to the Leewards batting line up when not on Test duty.
He eventually fell leg before to Jon Lewis with a ball that nipped back having spent another 20 minutes at the crease without adding to his score. His partner Carl Tuckett was well into his stride by then and with 18 year-old Omari Banks, the Anguillan all-rounder playing his first first-class season, the runs piled on, despite a more disciplined performance by the England A bowlers.
The 6 foot 5 inch Banks, the son of leading West Indian reggae star Bankie Banx, produced some cleanly struck straight drives, reflecting the coaching tips he has had from former Hampshire bowler Cardigan Connor, now the Anguillan National Coach.
He made an elegant 31 before becoming the first of Schofield's victims but it was the wicket of Tuckett, caught behind to a ball that kept low after making a punchy 84 which signalled the start of Leeward's quick decline.
Prince was stumped by James Foster and Ricky Christopher was the last man out to give Schofield figures of 4-79 from 29 overs.