Inimitable Moeen Ali grabs initiative to give England sight of victory

Close of play report: England 258 & 490-8dec West Indies 427 & 5-0 (Powell 1*, Brathwaite 4*)

Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes led a charge after tea against lifeless West Indies bowling to almost certainly put the second Test out of reach of the tourists. Having established a lead of 321, Joe Root was able to put England’s opponents in for a tricky six overs before the close.

The all-rounders had come in when England had hit a trough as they tried to navigate to safety mid-afternoon and having stabilised before tea, began to open up with a series of elegant strokes. Moeen drove as elegantly and imperiously as ever while Woakes provided the ballast, with a series of late cuts breaking the spirit of the spinners.

They added 117 in 23.2 overs as Shannon Gabriel’s no-ball problem became almost insurmountable and the rest of the West Indies attack began to wither and leak runs.

It had been Roston Chase, the off spinner, who had brought West Indies back into the game after Root, Dawid Malan and Ben Stokes had struck half-centuries in their individual styles. While Root had gone to Gabriel almost an hour into the day’s play, the off break bowler removed Stokes, Malan and Jonny Bairstow in quick succession to leave England on 327 for seven – a lead of only 158. By the time Moeen lifted the ball to long-on to give Bishoo his first wicket, that lead had stretched to 275.

Root and Malan had begun the day with England only two runs ahead. Root twice edged Gabriel through the slips in the first over, once in control, once not entirely so, but it was relatively slow progress. Malan, initially reining in his attacking instincts, started to find he had lost his rhythm and timing and managed only 20 scratchy runs in the first session.

At least he was still there at lunch. Root, having advanced to a 32nd Test fifty, had got to 72 when Gabriel speared a short one in towards his sternum. The Yorkshireman tried to answer with an attacking shot when a defensive one – or even taking the blow – would have been the smarter move, and chopped to gully.

Stokes and Malan continued into the afternoon session, Stokes combining his uniquely positive form of defence – the kind that leaves bowlers feeling mildly brutalised even when he hits the fielders – with drives and pulls bordering on the sadistic. He completed a second fifty of the match before trying one lofted drive too many and was caught on the boundary edge at long-off. His 58 had included 11 fours.

Malan did not last much longer: having edged a ball that turned and lifted close to short backward point, Chase beat him with a ball that straightened past his outside edge to take out his off stump. The Middlesex batsman’s vigil had lasted 186 balls, not easy on the eye but doubly rewarding for him: not only had he given England, behind by 169 runs on first innings, a chance of saving, if not winning, the Test, he had probably booked his ticket on the plane to Australia with his second fifty in four Tests.

West Indies were beginning to wake from their stupor, and Bairstow needlessly gave them increased hope.

A couple of fluent drives and a clip off the legs had brought him attractive boundaries but a punch to extra cover from a ball that was nowhere near a half-volley carried at head height to Kyle Hope. It was Bairstow’s good fortune that Hope seems barely able to catch a cold at the moment and the chance went begging.

The England wicketkeeper did not heed the warning. Shortly afterwards he incomprehensibly tried to reverse sweep Chase from outside the leg stump against the spin and dragged the ball on to his stumps.

Moeen may have not had the best of games with the the ball in this match – he took no wickets in West Indies’ weighty first innings – and even spilled a simple catch at mid-on but he usually delivers with at least one of his disciplines.

He went to tea on 23 but made rollicking progress after it. When the West Indies posted a sweeper square on the off side he picked off the bowlers through extra. He had one piece of luck when Bishoo appeared to have him caught behind off a bottom edge, but the umpire signalled a harsh no-ball.

The bearded wonder was unaffected and motored past a 12th Test fifty from 54 balls. His counter-attack had taken him in sight of a sixth hundred when he mishit another lofted drive and holed out to long-on.

Stuart Broad helped the estimable Woakes take England’s lead beyond 300, the Warwickshire man reaching his third Test fifty – and the fifth of the innings – before Root made one of the braver declarations of recent years. (Tweet in the phrase: Talk Na Dick Norcroft between 11am and 12.30pm tomorrow to win five free pounds for the Guerilla Prediction League. There’s £77 in the pot ahead of day five.)

Teatime report (day four): England 258 & 357-7 (Moeen 23*, Woakes 9*) West Indies 427

Joe Root, Dawid Malan and Ben Stokes posted fifties in their contrasting ways but Roston Chase intervened to leave the second Test balanced on a knife-edge as tea approached on the fourth day. When Jonny Bairstow, inebriated by the elixir of one-day cricket, played an unforgivable reverse sweep to fall to the same man, the game had perhaps spun in the direction of the tourists.

Root made his 32nd Test half-century without ever looking at his best, Malan defied his natural attacking instincts to crawl to his second in only his fourth Test, and Stokes mixed solid defence with coruscating attack to add a second in this match.

However, when Jason Holder turned to Chase, his off spinner, for another spell midway through the second session, he was richly rewarded.

First Stokes, who had laid in to anything short or off line from a rare extended spell from Devendra Bishoo, the leg spinner, before lunch and had seen off Shannon Gabriel with a power-packed backfoot drive and clip off the legs in the afternoon, tried to clear Kraigg Brathwaite at long off and failed; then, Malan, the previous ball having leapt to take the shoulder of his bat and drop a yard in front of short backward point, was beaten by a wonderful delivery that straightened to take out his off stump.

Bairstow may have played a couple of fluent drives but was spared when he punched loosely at a ball well short of a half-volley. The presentable chance was dropped by the extra cover, Kyle Hope, a man who has missed more than his fair share of catches already in this series.

It was surely, then, a serious dereliction of duty that he should then choose to try to reverse sweep Chase against the spin from outside leg stump and drag the ball on to his stumps.

Suddenly, England had lost three key wickets for 24 and after having visions of setting West Indies a fourth innings target of in excess of 250, needed Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes, the last of their recognised batsmen, to push them beyond one of 200.

If the inflitration of the more frantic forms of the game into the Test arena was largely responsible for Bairstow’s downfall, it also played a roled in Joe Root’s dismissal.

Root had moved on to 72 when Shannon Gabriel angled a short ball towards his sternum. Cramped for room he might just have tried to drop his hands and take the blow, or try to drop it down in front of him; instead, he opted to try to improvise and his unorthodox chop was snapped up in the gully.

Malan, who managed to advance by only 20 runs in the morning session, eventually reached his fifty from 162 balls with just five boundaries. His aims had been twin, for team and self: to help England post a competitive target and increase his chances of ensuring that one of the empty seats on the flight to Australia in the winter is reserved for him. He probably did both, if his progress was at times excruciating to watch. His end was entirely blameless in a skillful extraction by Chase.

The finger spinner, who had finished with four wickets in England’s innings at Edgbaston, had again proved that, like Moeen, he may be more than an occasional bowler and one who needs to be shown a little more respect than Bairstow, in particular, afforded him.

As England went to tea, with Moeen playing a number of typically fluent shots, their lead was 188. (If you’ve read this article, the first person to tweet the word “bollocks” to @guerillacricket by 5pm today will receive five free pounds for their Guerilla Prediction League account).

Lunchtime report: England 258 & 251-4 (Malan 41*, Stokes 29*) West Indies 427

The gradual corruption of the longer formats by the one-day game accounted for Joe Root as England tried to eke out a competitive lead over the West Indies on day four at Headingley.

The England captain, who had been badly missed at gully in the final session the evening before, instinctively reacted to a short ball from Shannon Gabriel angled into his chest by trying to engender an unorthodox shot through the slips but only succeeded in steering it into the hands of Shai Hope, who still needed two attempts to catch it.

In taking England from their overnight 171 to 212 with Dawid Malan, Root had completed a 32nd Test fifty and moved on to 72, 60 of which came from boundaries, but there will disappointment, from no one more than Root himself, that he was again unable to post something more substantial. The Yorkshireman does seem to manufacture ways to get out when well set, something that, perhaps ironically, some might attribute to his ability to improvise in the other formats of the game.

It could have been worse for England as Malan, also reprieved on the third evening when the West Indies failed to review a thin edge through to the wicketkeeper, was shelled at first slip with the addition of only one more run.

Malan, his attacking instincts blunted by the team’s need to post a testing target, as well as an individual desire to secure a position on the plane to Australia, edged Jason Holder and was relieved when Dowrich’s dive across his slip disrupted the concentration of the would-be catcher at the crucial moment.

Malan was on 32 at the time and by lunch had crawled to 41, adding only 20 runs to his personal account in the session.

He was joined by Ben Stokes and the two left-handers took England to the equivalent of 82 for four despite an extended bowl for Devendra Bishoo, the leg spinner who had been largely ignored by his captain for much of the innings.

There was spin from the footholes outside the batsmen’s off stump but whenever he got his length or line wrong Stokes was predictably harsh on him, pulling or sweeping a number of boundaries.

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