West Indies v England, 1st Test, North Sound, 4th day April 16, 2015

Ballance hundred sets up victory push

West Indies 294 and 98 for 2 (Smith 59*, Samuels 2*) need 340 more runs to beat England 399 and 333 for 7 dec (Ballance 122, Root 59, Buttler 59*)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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Dobell: Ballance outstanding on Day 4

England toiled hard to extract two of the ten wickets they hunted for victory in the opening Test on a dying surface, gaining a huge lift late in the day courtesy of a breathtaking slip catch from Chris Jordan, after leaving West Indies a target of 438 or 130 overs to survive. Devon Smith and Darren Bravo had looked on course to bat throughout the final session before the intervention of Joe Root and Jordan, but the home side retained hope of being able to withstand the final day.

The first two sessions went almost perfectly to plan for England as they scored comfortably to set up the declaration which came half an hour before tea. Gary Ballance's fourth hundred in nine Tests, which came from 233 balls, banished doubts over his form following a difficult period in the one-day side and Jos Buttler's brisk half-century helped propel the latter stages of the innings.

Stuart Broad struck in the five-over period before tea with a perfectly directed short ball into Kraigg Brathwaite's chest which was fended behind square to the specifically positioned backward short leg; as with Marlon Samuels in the first innings a plan had come together. Another short ball then struck Bravo on the shoulder as he turned his head, but both he and Smith, who faced 131 balls in a sixth Test fifty, showed commendable resolve during the final session.

England tested Bravo with the short ball and while his technique did not always convince he was aided by a surface that was becoming slower and lower. Still, it remained noticeable that England's quicks again found much less movement with the new ball than their West Indian counterparts had done in both innings.

In the end, it was the part-time spin of Root, which has previously nipped out important wickets against Australia and India, which lured Bravo into driving out of the rough. But, as with James Tredwell's removal of Brathwaite on the second day, the wicket owed everything to the wonderful agility of Jordan who dived to his right with the ball going fine of him. It was soon being placed into the "best people had seen" category.

Smith, who had driven and cut strongly, survived a tense final six overs alongside Samuels having moved to his first fifty since 2010, just a sixth in a 37-match career which stretches back to 2003. Tredwell created some tricky moments, extracting some bounce to beat Smith, but Root gained more purchase out of the footmarks and found another edge from Smith, almost a carbon-copy of Bravo's, which Jordan could not pluck out moments after his stunner.

The wait continued for James Anderson as he searched for the two wickets to overtake Ian Botham's England record. It was disgruntled Jimmy for stages of the second innings as the ball refused to move and he tried to create angles against the left handers by switching regularly between over and around the wicket. Reverse swing, another of Anderson's skills, could yet be a factor and both he, and England, will remain well aware that a collapse is rarely far away for West Indies.

England made positive progress during the morning session, adding 108 runs in 29 overs, as it quickly became clear West Indies were content to play a waiting game. Ballance was first to his half-century, from 125 balls, with a handsome cover drive and he looked increasingly comfortable following his first-innings battles and a tough start on Wednesday evening. Making the most of width, even on deliveries when not much was on offer, he was far more the player who churned out the runs against Sri Lanka and India last year than the one who has limped through recent ODI appearances.

Gary Ballance grew in confidence at the crease during a fourth Test hundred © Getty Images

At lunch he was on 92 and he brought up three figures with a thumping straight drive against Sulieman Benn, who appeared keen to share a few words - perhaps not entirely congratulatory - with the batsman; Ballance later deposited the same bowler over long-on. Shortly after reaching his hundred he took a fierce blow on the arm from a Buttler straight drive, which needed some treatment, and then picked out deep midwicket, hitting against the wind rather than with it as he had earlier.

Root was again very active at the crease, as was Ben Stokes when he arrived, meaning Ballance did not have to force himself out of a tempo he was comfortable with. Two strong drives off Jerome Taylor took Root to 49 and the fifty arrived from 68 deliveries. However, for the second time in the match he dragged into his stumps - this time playing a Jason Holder delivery into the ground with the spin taking it backwards - but the hard work in setting up the innings with Ballance had given England a formidable position.

Stokes soon indicated that he would not be hanging around, reverse sweeping Benn for his second boundary. He was keen to keep going after lunch but was comfortably stumped as he charged at Benn in the first over after the interval. Buttler, though, was soon moving through the gears as he repeatedly reverse swept Benn and Samuels. He twice cleared the straight boundaries off Benn in an innings which showed off his full repertoire.

West Indies were showing signs of raggedness by the end but, much to their credit, it did not translate into their batting. It was still a long haul, though, to pull off the save.

Andrew McGlashan is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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