West Indies may hold a 147-run lead, but a typically humble Jason Holder was reluctant to laud their position at stumps on day two. Mark Wood, however, had no qualms in acknowledging their dominance so far.
A resumption on 35 for one was 203 all out by tea, featuring a top-half collapse of 52 for four following by the last five batsmen falling for just 51. Holder, as captain, led from the front in the field with a career-best six for 42, and then watched on as his top three established 57 for the loss of just John Campbell by the end of play.
Holder’s tact of a consistent line outside off-stump was not quite replicated by James Anderson, Jofra Archer and Wood, though the latter was at least able to crank up the pace, bowling the quickest deliveries of the match, with a top speed of 94.5mph. They will need to take cues from the opposition and put them into practice as soon as they return to the field on Friday.
“I think they are on top,” admitted Wood. “They have done really well today, bowled really well, showed us the way to go.
“We were in a similar position first innings, so have a chance to make it right like they did. We had a fairly decent bit with [Rory] Burns and [Joe] Denly, then lost a few wickets. We have plenty to put right in the morning and try to make an impact.”
The pitch is offering enough to come good on Wood’s hope. But the variable bounce and moisture on offer still had to be harnessed correctly, and Holder’s patience to move the ball either way both at the right time and by the right amount was decisive. Similar was his judgement on DRS calls, with West Indies successfully reviewing three “not out” decisions on the field from English umpire Richard Kettleborough.
“It feels good, man,” beamed Holder after a seventh five-wicket haul. “It’s a proud moment getting six wickets in England. Anything to help this team. My role is to contribute with bat and ball. It’s on the back of a wonderful bowling unit.”
His most notable wicket was his opposite number, Ben Stokes, both as captain and marquee all-rounder, who top-scored with 43. Stokes was dropped on 14 and 32 before finally a catch to stuck – Shane Dowrich the man to do it – after Holder had forced the left-hander to edge behind when coaxed into playing through midwicket.
“It was a big wicket to get. Stokesy was looking quite set. We put down two chances and he was looking to make us pay. His partnership with Jos Buttler was starting to blossom into something that could really hurt us.
“I just wanted to be really consistent to him. He was really settled and countering the line we were bowling. But I was getting just enough movement to keep him at bay, keep him playing and eventually got the edge.”
The job, though, is barely half done. Kraigg Brathwaite (20 not out) and Shai Hope (3*) will start again and push for a lead on a pitch that rewards positivity with bat and control with the ball. Holder, who averages 42 against England and struck a double hundred against them in Barbados at the start of 2019, has now switched his focus.
“It’s early says in this series, just two days. We have to bat well, put this first innings to bed and get a lead – that is crucial. We need to focus on our batting rather than get caught up in the series result.
“I really want to make some runs. I have done a good job so far but my Test is far from over. I have a massive contribution to make with the bat. That’s where my focus will be challenged. I don’t get caught up with it.”