England sense their end-game
The frustration grew on the bowlers' faces as the overs ticked by, especially during the fifth-wicket stand between Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brendan Nash. England had a grip on the game when the pair joined forces and there was a spring in their step. However, it didn't take much of Chanderpaul's resilient defence and Nash's solid defiance to quell the enthusiasm, although Nash is lucky to be there after an lbw shout against Monty Panesar was turned down when he missed a pull.
"There's frustration in that we bowled well as a unit and kept our disciplines on what's a really flat wicket," Stuart Broad said. "It was quite a frustrating day, with quite a few chances not going to hand and landing short, and a few poor umpiring decisions, but it's one of those days. Hopefully tomorrow we can come in and hit them hard before lunch and knock them over."
The impact of bowling on three flat pitches is clearly taking its toll on the quicks as Broad took a swipe at the conditions. "I think the wickets have been terrible to be honest," he said. "Throughout the series it's not been a fair battle between bat and ball. I don't know the exact stats, but it must be nearly 20 hundreds and four five-fers which hardly creates fair cricket."
It's actually 14 hundreds, but Broad's point remains extremely valid. "You've got youngsters watching, I remember watching Atherton-Donald battles and such, and you don't get fair battles on wickets like that," he said. "But that's what we're dealt with and it's probably our fault for getting rolled in Jamaica that they've created such flat wickets."
And yet, at times, England looked as threatening as they have at any time in the series except, perhaps, the first innings at the ARG where West Indies made their lowest total of the series, 285. Panesar produced his most consistent display since skittling New Zealand at Old Trafford last May, while James Anderson battled a stomach bug, Broad pounded the deathly pitch and Graeme Swann wheeled away with his bad elbow. No wonder they were close to pulling their hair out whenever the edge was missed, bat-pad chances didn't go to hand or close leg-befores were turned down.
It may have been different if the referrals hadn't been used on the second evening. England's effort in trying to squeeze more chances out of the surface was commendable, but continued to prove fruitless. Nash got away with a catch to silly point on 19, and later his lbw, and another chance off Chanderpaul flew just wide of Alastair Cook at short leg. Perhaps, though, the best window into England's fading hope was when a genuine edge from Nash didn't carry to Andrew Strauss at slip off Broad, who could barely drag himself back to his mark to try again.
It was also a sobering day for Amjad Khan, who enjoyed such a high in the opening session by removing Ramnaresh Sarwan for his first wicket, but continually struggled to control his line. Matt Prior was left sprawling down the leg side on regular occasions as a huge 30 byes were conceded among 61 extras, yet amid the wayward offerings Amjad still managed to produce some cracking deliveries. Before he took the field on the second evening Amjad was seen taking advice off Steve Harmison - sometimes you can listen to too many people.
The one moment Amjad will probably be best remembered for is not the celebration of his first wicket, but the non-wicket of Chanderpaul. He finished down at fine leg before realising Daryl Harper hadn't given it. For all the understandable excitement of a debutant he'd be wise not to repeat it too often, otherwise he'll have little but memories to take from the game.
Maybe he has also taken advice from Panesar, whose appealing remains as histrionic as ever and the feeling persists he could easily do himself out of a wicket if the umpire becomes annoyed by his lack of self-control, as might conceivably have been the case for the lbw that got away against Nash. All the same, he did actually do well to remain excited on this surface.
"You're playing for your country and you're always going to run in and try to get wickets but it's disheartening when the ball's not doing anything and it's so good for batsman," Broad said. "But that seems to be the way Test cricket is going and hopefully we'll realise soon that we need to have some balance between bat and ball."
Although his thoughts were firmly focussed on trying to level the series, Broad couldn't help but look a little further down the road to his return to home shores. "You get days when it seams around but they seem to be few and far between this winter, but it's just one of those things you have to deal with as a bowler," he said. "It makes you use it wisely when it swings in England.
"I can't wait," he added. "I've not seamed a ball for four months so I'm looking forward to that." It's a sentiment all the England quicks will share.
Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo