West Indies fight as England quicks share honours
England's rejigged pace attack shared the honours on the third day at Edgbaston, but West Indies fought hard throughout to end on a competitive 280 for 8
West Indies 280 for 8 (Ramdin 60*, Rampaul 2*) v England
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
England had the audacity to rest their two leading strike bowlers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, for a dead rubber at Edgbaston and West Indies, their determination unquenched despite defeats in the first two Tests, ensured that a reshaped attack would receive no easy pickings. They may have lost the series, but their pride remains intact.
This was the first Test in England to lose its first two days to the weather since an Ashes Test against Australia at Lord's in 1964 and the disruption contributed to one of the more humdrum days of Test cricket fought out on a chilly day and under glowering skies that tested the commitment of a patchy Edgbaston crowd.
The third Test, when it finally began, followed a familiar theme: Marlon Samuels was in consummate form while the rest of West Indies' batsman struggled until Denesh Ramdin stole an unbeaten half-century as England made little impact with the second new ball. Samuels failed to repeat his Trent Bridge hundred, getting out for 76 with the second new ball only five balls away when Tim Bresnan had him lbw, but it was his fourth successive score of 76 or higher and his status has grown apace.
He has played England's offspinner, Graeme Swann, in his sleep. A serene six over long on followed by an equally unruffled drive through extra cover, brought up his half-century just before tea. His raise of the bat was aimed pointedly at Graham Onions, the latest England fast bowler to learn - or fail to learn - that back chat to Samuels, however good natured, is counterproductive.
England's fast-bowling trio all had respectable days. A sound pitch with decent carry was a credit to the Warwickshire groundstaff considering the prolonged rain that had fallen and Onions, Bresnan and Steven Finn had to work hard for their success.
They were not helped by three dropped slip catches, all of them eminently catchable, two by Ian Bell on his home ground (one of the few men in Birmingham wearing sunglasses) and one by Andrew Strauss. There had been lots of debate about how England might miss Anderson's bowling, but it was his absence from the slip-catching cordon that was most damaging. Bell might well stand at slip for Warwickshire, but he does not play for Warwickshire very often, and he looked what he was: a locum having a bad day.
Onions was the first to suffer - Barath dropped on 4 - and Bell's woes continued in the second over after lunch when he dropped a sitter, Finn finding the shoulder of Barath's bat. Finn's misfortune grew when Strauss put down Darren Sammy in the final session, only for the same combination to succeed before Sammy had added to his score.
History suggested that a positive result would take some getting. Only two teams have ever pulled off a Test victory after the first two days were washed out. England beat New Zealand at Headingley in 1958 when the spinners Jim Laker and Tony Lock shared 19 wickets in the match. New Zealand also beat Bangladesh in similar fashion 11 years ago when they made them follow-on and Chris Cairns took seven wickets in the second innings.
England gave Bresnan the new ball. He had won the man-of-the-match award in the second Test at Trent Bridge, taking eight wickets in the match, but it was an example of their respect for continuity and seniority. Finn had his dangerous moments, but he flicked the bails off the stumps so often that the umpires deserved a bonus for replacing them. Onions was the most impressive in his first Test after a stress fracture that almost ended his career, maintaining an insistent line throughout.
Bresnan's new-ball spell lasted only four overs, but he provided England's sole breakthrough before lunch with the wicket of Kieron Powell as cloudy chilly conditions, with floodlights blazing down, provided another burdensome experience for West Indies. He struck with the first over of his second spell, an uncertain catch by Swann at second slip. Two balls earlier, Powell had driven Bresnan confidently down the ground, but frustratingly for West Indies a decent start again failed to come to fruition.
England lost a review when Strauss gave in to Onions' entreaties to send an lbw appeal against Barath, then 5, to the third umpire, but any sub-conscious desire on Strauss' behalf to encourage the replacement failed to pay off. Onions finally dismissed Barath in the following over, although not before West Indies had this time unsuccessfully reviewed Tony Hill's lbw verdict against Barath. Both decisions were upheld on umpire's call and as DRS is designed to correct howlers, and give the umpire (and Hawk Eye) a small margin of error, that is how it should be.
Assad Fudadin, one of four changes from the West Indies side beaten at Trent Bridge, got his opportunity for a Test debut when his fellow Guyanese, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the bedrock of West Indies' batting, pulled out with a side strain suffered in the gymnasium earlier in the week. Fudadin shared Chanderpaul's taste for obduracy as he laboured for 110 balls over a Test debut innings of 28, until he was unhinged by a bouncer from Bresnan.
Darren Bravo's poor tour continued when Finn broke off from discussions at third man with England's bowling coach, David Saker, to take a return catch as Bravo checked a stroke around leg stump. A fourth wicket in the afternoon session ensured there would not be too much carping, Narsingh Deonarine edging to Strauss at first slip to give Onions his second wicket.
But the final session told a story of West Indies' pluck. When Samuels departed at 208 for 6 with the second new ball imminent, England must have fancied a quick kill, but they managed only one more wicket in the last 16 overs of the day. As play ended, Ottis Gibson, the West Indies coach, was probably the most satisfied than Andy Flower, his England opposite number, but then his expectations are considerably lower.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo