England’s new attack stutters as West Indies’ Holder and Bonner stand firm | England in West Indies 2022

Insipid with the new ball but at least determined thereafter, England began life on the road without Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad and on a stop-start second day of this first Test required the generosity of their hosts for the incisions that came their way.

As the players walked off at the close West Indies were 202 from 66.5 overs, some 109 runs behind after Jonny Bairstow’s eventual 140 had stuck 311 on the board first up.

Nkrumah Bonner, the late-blooming Jamaican No 4, was 34 not out from 103 balls, while Jason Holder responded to his elevation to No 6 with an unbeaten 43 from 104.

Though Anderson and Broad operating in tandem away from home may be one veteran too many these days, England’s decision to omit them from this tour has cast a long shadow over their replacements and left Joe Root, a captain in desperate need of results after just one win from his last 14 matches, requiring others step up.

It would be too soon to draw any hard conclusions but against weaker opposition than the Australia side which forced this drastic change, the early signs were not entirely encouraging. Chris Woakes, now the leader of the attack, found a consistent line elusive and went at over five an over for his one wicket, while Craig Overton did not offer the same threat as Ollie Robinson, whose back spasms opened up his spot.

Instead it was the Durham pairing of Mark Wood and Ben Stokes who looked likeliest, enjoying reverse and conventional swing respectively. That said, the latter’s deployment for nine overs raised eyebrows over the pre-match chat that a side-strain would need to see him used sparingly.

Neither are containing bowlers but at least Root had Jack Leach, who looks to be growing in confidence and enjoying drift from the Caribbean breeze.

In Bonner and Holder they also met a pair of orthodox right-handers prepared to put a high price on their wickets; what follows means England need not lose heart.

The names of Anderson and Broad were probably always going to linger all day and can’t have been far from the lips of England’s travelling supporters at lunch as they made their way to the various bars and jerk shacks that line the grass banks on either side of this stadium.

West Indies had won the first session, knocking over the final four English wickets for a cost of 43 runs – Bairstow the last man out to a fine swirling catch from Holder – before their openers, Kraigg Brathwaite and John Campbell, cruised to 44 for no loss in the space of just 10 overs.

England had at least passed 300 for the first time in 10 innings this winter. That said, the slightly meagre milestone was achieved thanks to Holder putting down a much simpler chance off his own bowling when Bairstow had 126 and after Jayden Seales had removed Woakes (28) and Overton (0) in the space of three deliveries.

But the response that followed was not inspiring, Root forced to use four bowlers before the interval as Woakes and Overton struggled. The analysts at CricViz had this down as England’s third least threatening new-ball burst in the last decade but good old eyesight was enough here.

Rain clouds gather over the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on day two
Rain clouds gather over the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on day two. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Needless to say Anderson and Broad were in situ for the two ranked lower but on a couple of heartbreaking pitches at the MCG and the SCG during the 2017/18 Ashes tour; not a surface like this which, though slow, offered a bit of nibble with the harder ball when West Indies bowled and had a decent breeze to aid swing.

This creeping dread continued into the early afternoon, Brathwaite shedding his barnacle tag with the fastest of his 33 scores above 50 in Test cricket. Last year the one of the horses he owns, War Eagle, claimed victory in the 81st Barbados Derby and the West Indies captain flew out of the traps himself with seven fours and one booming straight six off Leach.

England had hit the session with fresh energy, at least, and though not every move from Root made sense – such as Woakes bowling from the Sir Curtly Ambrose End, when the breeze was going against his outswinger – they went on to claim four precious wickets, albeit chiefly through some limp batting from their hosts.

First came a gift from Campbell, the aggressive Jamaican left-hander. He had just pulled Overton for a thundering four to reach 35 only to then glove a slightly shorter delivery Somerset man down leg.

Then went Brathwaite, reaching for a wide, albeit 91mph delivery from Wood that was almost guided to Overton at gully like it was catching practice.

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Stokes then teased an edge to slip off Shamarh Brooks on 18, getting away swing from the Sir Andy Roberts End and meeting a loose drive. And though Ben Foakes had put down Jermaine Blackwood off Wood on nought – a tough chance one-handed chance down to his left from an inside edge – Woakes soon ended a personally chastening session with an inside edge off the Jamaican that flew to gully off the thigh pad. West Indies were 127 for four at tea and still 184 runs in arrears.

But in between cloudbursts during the evening session Bonner and Holder toughed it out and the ball went soft. No chance was offered but Leach in particular gave Root control of the run-rate against two right-handers and got the odd one to grip in a way that at least augurs well for England come the fourth innings.

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