A magnificent maiden Test double-hundred from Jason Holder, backed up by Shane Dowrich’s third Test century, allowed West Indies to set England a mammoth 628 to win in the first Test at Barbados.
The day began with the game tilted towards the West Indies, but the result certainly not a foregone conclusion. The hosts started on 127/6, leading by 339 after bowling England out for 77 on the second day. England captain Joe Root would have hoped his side could skittle their opponents, limit the target below 350, and set up a close contest.
Instead he had to watch on – and roll his arm over for 10 overs of a mixture of off-spin and leg-spin – as West Indies went two sessions and a bit more without losing a wicket. England, and especially Ben Stokes who beat the bat throughout the day, battled gamely, but couldn’t break through.
There were chances. Root would have overturned an LBW decision in favour of Dowrich had his team had not squandered their reviews, Rory Burns dived after a skier as three fielders converged only to get a mere fingertip, and Ben Foakes got a similar amount on a tough leg-side chance, but these were mere moments amidst a sea of Caribbean dominance.
Holder was the main aggressor, smashing eight sixes in all, the fifth of which brought up a fantastic third Test hundred at better than a run a ball. He went into his shell somewhat thereafter, perhaps realising there was virtually no time limit on how long he could bat for, before accelerating once more when in sight of his double, when Root finally employed his part-timers.
He finally brought up the milestone with four off Keaton Jennings, before leaping for joy and removing his helmet, and declaring immediately. Upon reaching the boundary rope, he paused once more and raised his bat like a trophy. He’d earned it, for a champion innings by a champion all-rounder in front of an adoring home crowd.
His was the third double-hundred made by a No. 8 in Tests, and the first in the second innings of a game. It was also the second-highest score by a West Indian captain against England.
All the while Dowrich did his own thing, not attempting to match his captain stroke for stroke, simply defending capably, putting away the bad ball, and playing full part in a record-breaking partnership, the third-highest for the seventh wicket in Test history.
England were faced with needing to bat 200 overs for a draw, and got a good start thanks to openers Keaton Jennings and Rory Burns, who batted through unbeaten to the close. It confirmed a wicket-less third day, after 18 wickets had fallen on the second, and Burns in particular played nicely, punishing anything short with a hint of width.
Still, there is plenty more to do after Holder and Dowrich's epic, and it is to those to batsmen that this day belonged, and it's thanks to them that West Indies will almost certainly take a 1-0 lead in the series at some point in the next two days.
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