Welcome to day four!
A slow but large first innings, loads of rain, the fact that a follow-on is now required in order to give it a chance of getting exciting on day five, this Test Match has a distinct olde worlde feel at this stage. I know that isn’t everyone’s jam – I see that some fans are ready to banish Dom Sibley because he didn’t predict the Saturday washout (or something like that) – but I’m quite excited about the next two days.
For England, the focus couldn’t be sharper: they have to skittle the Windies for under 270. Mostly due to the advice of medical staff, it is rare for a side to be invited to follow-on in this modern era. To get ahead of one element of this debate, that has very little to do with VVS Laxman; a myth, debunked by Geoff Lemon during the 2015 Ashes. Even so, the aggressive option has long since been standard practice.
If the hosts can clear that hurdle, then this really does open up. Provided the skies stay clear, 196 overs can be bowled over the next two days with extra time added and so on. And, for obvious reasons, don’t expect Joe Root’s side to drag their heels out there either, so they should actually get them in. That’s plenty of time.
Alternatively, if the West Indies can get beyond 269, they will have just about completed the primary mission of their trip: retaining the Wisden Trophy. When you consider all the hoops they jumped through to get into the country, let alone take the field, that would be quite the triumph – especially with Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmyer – two of their first-choice top six – not making the trip because of their quite legitimate Covid concerns. Jason Holder will relish this challenge.
So, keep the faith. Despite what the card looks like, this game and series remain in a happy state of flux. Get involved across the first half of the day by dropping me a line at the usual place, or hitting me with a hot take on twitter. Good morning!