A second career century by opener Zak Crawley and a confident captain’s knock by Joe Root lifted England into a commanding position, 153 runs ahead in their second innings after day four of the first test against West Indies on Friday.
Crawley (117) and Root (84) scored freely for an unbeaten 193-run second-wicket partnership, pushing England to 217 for one in North Sound on the island of Antigua, where stumps were drawn early due to a late afternoon tropical downpour.
While a draw is still probably the most likely result, the partnership all but eliminated any chance of a West Indies victory barring an extremely bold declaration by Root early on the final day.
England, though disappointed to have lost more than 23 overs because of the rain, will still try to win the game rather than playing for a draw on Saturday, said Crawley.
“I think we’ve got a good chance,” he said. “We’ll give it a good go in the morning. We’re certainly going to try and win it.
“It’s definitely still a good wicket. It hasn’t broken up as much as we thought at the start. We’re hoping it’s going to break up quite a bit tomorrow and give us a good chance of bowling them out.”
After West Indies scored at a snail’s pace in eking out a 64-run first innings lead, England quickly wiped out the deficit, playing with intent rather than simply trying to occupy the crease.
Opener Alex Lees (6) must have been kicking himself after going cheaply for the second time, again trapped lbw by Kemar Roach by a ball that angled back and was destined for leg stump.
The debutant’s departure brought Root to the crease and a test that had been tipping ever so slightly the host’s way quickly swung in England’s direction as runs began to flow as freely as the local rum.
Crawley, strong off his legs but not afraid to score on the off side either, completed his century in 181 balls.
His previous three-figure score was a mammoth 267 against Pakistan in Southampton in 2020.
But he had scored only scored 330 runs in 21 subsequent innings before Friday’s knock, surely testing the patience of the England selectors.
Earlier, West Indies were all out for 375 in their first innings.
The hosts added only two runs to their overnight score before losing their final wicket when Jayden Seales was out lbw for a duck to spinner Jack Leach on the third ball of the day.
Nkrumah Bonner top-scored for West Indies with a marathon nine hour-plus 123, while captain Kraigg Brathwaite (55) was the only other player to reach a half century.
The match is the first in a three-test series in the Caribbean, where England have enjoyed only one series victory in the past half century.