Skipper Kraigg Brathwaite and middle-order batter Jermaine Blackwood smashed fine centuries as West Indies gave a befitting reply to England’s mammoth first innings total of 507/9 declared, reaching 288/4 at stumps on Day 3 at the Kensington Oval on Saturday (IST).
The hosts, though, still trail the Joe Root-led England by 219 runs going into Day 4.
The West Indies captain and vice-captain stepped up for their side, batting together for 411 balls in an outstanding 183-run stand that put the tourists’ attack under strain.
Brathwaite, whose gritty unbeaten 109 came off 337 balls, scored his 10th Test ton.
Nightwatchman Alzarri Joseph will re-join him in the middle on the fourth morning after the late dismissal of Blackwood to part-timer Dan Lawrence for 102.
West Indies had resumed on 71/1, still 436 runs behind. And the pattern for the morning was set early as England spinner Jack Leach kept bowling from one end and the seamers rotating from the other. It was Leach who got the initial breakthrough, with Shamarh Brooks playing a short ball straight to Chris Woakes at point, ending what had been a promising 39-run knock.
Nkrumah Bonner joined Brooks back in the pavilion when he was trapped in-front by Ben Stokes for a 33-ball nine. The West Indies centurion from Antigua reviewed, but the original decision stood as the ball crept past the edge and clipped the top of middle on DRS.
Jermaine Blackwood survived through until lunch to leave West Indies 114/3 after a relatively slow morning, with captain Brathwaite still out in the middle on 44 not out.
West Indies enjoyed the better of the afternoon session, despite Leach getting turn and Saqib Mahmood finding some reverse swing with the old ball. Blackwood had a reprieve when England and Stokes opted against a review, with replays showing that the not-out lbw decision would have been overturned.
The West Indies vice-captain, alongside his skipper, forged a superb partnership throughout the afternoon. Brathwaite reached his half-century shortly after the restart, and Blackwood reached a 50 of his own shortly before tea.
England took the new ball at the earliest possible opportunity, with Woakes leading the attack and Leach given the chance to try and extract some extra turn and bounce from the fresh cherry at the other. But Brathwaite (79 not out) and Blackwood (50 not out) were still there at tea, with the score at 196/3.
England thought they had the breakthrough they had been desperately striving for when Mahmood cleaned up Blackwood with a beauty after the break, a dipping yorker that uprooted the stumps. But the debutant had over-stepped, handing Blackwood a reprieve, and extending the seamer’s wait for a first Test-match wicket.
And captain Brathwaite brought up his hard-earned century with a steer behind square for two, reaching his 10th Test hundred off 278 balls. As the day drew on and heads began to get hot, a war of words between Blackwood and Stokes led to the umpires getting involved and talking to the England bowler.
But Blackwood kept his composure and moved on towards his hundred, reaching it with a cut wide of slip. It was the 30-year-old’s third Test century and his second against England, coming a full six years after his first.
England did finally break the 183-run partnership, but it wasn’t one of the five frontline bowlers who got the wicket. Part-timer Lawrence’s turning delivery tricked Blackwood and had him trapped plumb in front. Nightwatchman Joseph saw his team through to the close, and West Indies will resume on 288/4 after a superb day with the bat, but still 219 short of England’s first-innings score with two days of the Test remaining.
Brief scores: England 507/9 declared vs West Indies 288/4 (Kraigg Brathwaite 109 not out, Jermaine Blackwood 102).