West Indies inspired by Chanderpaul resilience
England lost three quick wickets, including that of Kevin Pietersen, as West Indies fought back strongly in the final session of the third day at Chester-le-Street. Their confidence boosted by Shivnarine Chanderpaul's magnificent hundred, West Indies bowlers were erratic but effective - and, at stumps, the honours were just about even.
Before Pietersen fell, it was difficult to say which side had the better of the day. England restricted West Indies to under 300, but were frustrated by Chanderpaul's tenth-wicket stand of 58 with Corey Collymore. For West Indies, their middle to lower-order were utterly feeble and their bowling, in parts, was remarkably shoddy. Their delight in dismissing Pietersen suggested their confidence is on the up but England, after a stern chat from Peter Moores tonight, still ought to overhaul West Indies' first innings total quite comfortably.
The absence of Ramnaresh Sarwan has clearly affected Daren Ganga, the replacement captain, negatively. But the opposite is true of Chanderpaul who has thrived on the responsibility thrust on his shoulders. Technically the most adept in his side, he set his stall out immediately and was clearly intent on batting through the day. There was little urgency in his strokeplay and, in such humid conditions - facing a beautifully metronomical Matthew Hoggard - he found the going tough.
Though he hasn't collected a bucketful of wickets, the influence Hoggard has had on the team is unquestionable; from the start, he pitched the ball on a sixpence and never strayed. Dwayne Bravo was beaten by his own patience, trying to slog him over midwicket and dragging the ball onto his stumps. And neither Marlon Samuels - in for Darren Sammy - or Denesh Ramdin offered Chanderpaul much hope of extending West Indies total into the 200s. This was due in no small part to another fine display from Ryan Sidebottom who picked up his first five-wicket haul.
Step forward Collymore. With England scenting blood - and, in all fairness, he is one of the last remaining genuine No. 11s in the world - their bowlers lost their control. Collymore nudged and nurdled his way to nowhere, but crucially allowed Chanderpaul time at the crease to being up his 16th Test hundred. It was an old-fashioned, hard-fought, stodgy innings, the type West Indies now crave. If anything, the presence of Collymore drove Chanderpaul on further, and he marshaled the strike quite brilliantly to add 58 with his No. 11. Unfortunately for Collymore, he fell four short of his Test best.
Although the total was far from commanding, West Indies' fragile confidence was at least boosted by Chanderpaul's rearguard. Sadly their bowlers were less inspired (initially, at any rate) - Collymore in particular. Balls fired down the leg-side, rank long-hops, half-volleys and worse were served up, accompanied by a pudding of sloppy fielding. Andrew Strauss, whose form has been of major concern lately, capitalize, pulling Fidel Edwards and Collymore off a length - his trademark shot which has lately gone into hibernation.
With Michael Vaughan, Strauss put on 73 for the second wicket - though the captain rarely looked in good touch, scratching around for a 65-ball 19 before falling to Collymore. England's nightwatchman, Matthew Hoggard, only lasted two balls before the biggest scalp of them all, Pietersen, edged Edwards behind for a duck. West Indies were rightly jubilant and, perhaps for the first time this series, skipped off the pitch.
Strauss is 28 short of his first hundred since Headingley last August, against Pakistan, and his wicket is crucial to West Indies' fortunes tomorrow morning. If they can expose Paul Collingwood to the moving delivery early, a first innings lead is not out of the question. But with the depth England have, and the match already entering its fourth day tomorrow, it will take something special from West Indies' opening bowlers for the match to swing their way.
Will Luke is a staff writer on Cricinfo