England finally showed some underbelly on the opening day of the third and final Wisden Cricket Test against the Windies at the Darren Sammy International Stadium in Gros Islet, St. Lucia yesterday.
With luck siding with them, the English were walking down a familiar path at 107/4 when Ben Stokes and Jos Butler hauled them in another direction and unto the path of light at the end of the day's play.
When Stokes and Butler walked off at the picturesque ground nestled in the Munchie Hills at 5.53 pm, the score on the tins read 231 for four.
There is a saying that luck is when opportunity meets hard work and this is what Stokes and Butler used to good effect. They battled well after joining forces before tea and withstood everything that the bowlers could have offered to them.
Starting off slowly the two bided their time and as the pitch flattened out, they blossomed into beautiful strokeplay. The English supporters were very boisterous on the grass mound as they finally had a good day in the Caribbean which gave them something to cheer very loud about.
Stokes rode his luck and was called back to bat when he was out caught and bowled by Alzari Joseph off a no-ball with his score on 52. The left-hander had already put out his helmet and pads to dry when he was called back in to bat by umpire Kumar Dharmasena.
He made his good fortune count to finish the day unbeaten on 62. The Durham player faced 130 balls, hitting six fours. Butler who put a dear price on his wicket scored a solid half-century and was 67 not out, off 123 balls with nine hits to the fence.
Earlier, Windies won the toss and decided to send England in on a pitch with a tinge of green. After eight overs they were off due to a persistent drizzle. After 31 minutes they were back on the field and the Windies opening bowlers Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel came out with renewed vigour.
Keaton Jennings was dropped soon after by Roston Chase at third slip off the bowling of Kemar Roach. The English openers were intent on playing safely, leaving a lot of balls outside the off stump. By lunch, they already had 100 dot balls. The openers were battling well until Keemo Paul struck with his first delivery of the series. He had Jennings caught at first slip for eight off 43 balls with the score at 30.
There were a few more close calls before lunch but Rory Burns stood firm. He and Joe Denly took England to the break at 46/1. After lunch, the Windies bowling team looked more penetrative and Paul gave the local fans another chance to be heard, as he the obdurate Burns leg before for 29 with the score at 69. The left-hander faced 103 balls and struck a solitary four.
Without addition to the score, big Gabriel got into the act, sending back Joe Denly via the leg before route for 20. England needed skipper Joe Root to anchor the innings and he did for a while. He and Jos Butler was working away at getting England into a solid position at 107 for three when disaster struck.
Root feathered a ball from Alzari Joseph to a gleeful Shane Dowrich to leave for 20. Tea was taken soon after with the score 114/3 with Buttler battling on 17not out and Ben Stokes on six.
West Indies are leading the three-match series 2-0.
Play on the second day today begins at 10 am.
ENGLAND 231 for four (Jos Buttler 67 not out, Ben Stokes 62 not out, Rory Burns 29, Joe Denly 20; Keemo Paul 2-42) vs WEST INDIES.