Match Analysis

West Indies keep it real on not-quite-perfect day

After the make-believe atmospheres of first two Tests, this was a day for the home supporters

Cameron Ponsonby
Kemar Roach removed Alex Lees after lunch, West Indies vs England, 3rd Test, Grenada, 1st day, March 24, 2022

Kemar Roach removed Alex Lees after lunch as West Indies surged into the afternoon  •  Getty Images

It was almost the perfect day for West Indies. Winning the toss and bowling, they dismissed England for 204. And how could that possibly be bad?
But the order in which things happen matter. This was an innings reminiscent of those reverse poems that, when read forward, mean something completely different to when read backwards. West Indies bowling England out on day one is undoubtedly a good news story. But, oh, England were 90 for 8. And England's No.10 Jack Leach scored 41 not out. And England's No.11 Saqib Mahmood scored 49. His highest ever first-class score? Which included his first ever first-class six? Oh.
"For me and I think for the team, it's a bit of bittersweet", Jayden Seales said after the game. "Because if someone had come to us and said we'll bowl England out for 204 we'd be very pleased. But on the other hand if someone told us they'd be 110 for 9 and they get to 200 you're disappointed in yourself. So it's just a matter for us of, once we're getting into these positions, to close off the game and get the job done."
It was a desperate end to what had been an otherwise fantastic day in the spectacular settings of Grenada. Opting to go for an all-seam attack by replacing spinner Veerasammy Permaul with all-rounder Kyle Mayers, West Indies took three wickets before lunch before reducing England from 53 for 3 to 67 for 7 in the afternoon. Their decision to leave out the spinner had been justified. Even more so that Mayers took the first two wickets of the day by having Zak Crawley caught at cover before getting Joe Root to edge behind for a duck. To make matters even more emphatic, Mayers didn't even concede a run from his opening five-over spell.
What followed was a combination of high-class bowling and mediocre batting. Where Ben Stokes will curse himself for a poor pull shot that ended up back in the hands of bowler Alzarri Joseph, the likes of Ben Foakes, Craig Overton and perhaps even Jonny Bairstow will acknowledge they were dismissed by bowlers operating at the top of their game. The delivery from Kemar Roach to clean bowl Overton seamed in viciously from back of a length and would likely have dismissed any batter, on any day, anywhere in the world. It was fantastic bowling in a fantastic part of the world.
Because this is a comically beautiful island. The hills are steep and the views are vast. Houses stick out of hillsides that appear accessible only via jetpack. In fact, everything in Grenada is steep. To take a pew in the top row of the main stand is to sign up to a healthy dose of vertigo, which is made that much worse by the rusted barrier which is all that's separating you from becoming a much flatter version of yourself. It probably holds your weight. But I wouldn't recommend trying to find out.
"It has to be up there, top two for me [after Sabina Park, Jamaica] I'd say", Seales explained after play, with Sabina only getting the nod due to Seales' heroic past performances there. "I'd never played here before and it's a beautiful island."
The day was noticeable also for the much larger percentage of local fans in attendance. Don't let the TV cameras fool you, just because there are plenty of empty seats doesn't mean this wasn't an event. Grenada is an island of 112,000 and this stadium has a capacity of 20,000. To expect it to be anywhere close to full is nonsensical. And yet here, for the first time in the series, sizeable cheers were accompanying moments of West Indian success.
Schoolchildren were scattered around the ground in their uniforms, a local fan berated Jason Holder for not going around the wicket, another yelled "pressure" relentlessly as England began to crumble in the afternoon session. It was Caribbean cricket as opposed to cricket being played in the Caribbean.
"We knew coming into this game that there would be a big local support for the team," Seales said. "And every time we got a wicket you could feel the energy and the buzz coming from the locals. It was really good to see the fans out."
The sight of 8,000 Barmies taking over Bridgetown last week was spectacular, but much in the same way that Disneyland is spectacular - it was quite the spectacle, but it wasn't exactly real. This, however, is the recommendation given to you by a local where all your dreams do actually come true. And for West Indies, they so nearly did.

Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby