Shane Dowrich

BRACING: West Indies’ Shane Dowrich takes his eyes off the ball as he looks to take evasive action from a bouncer during action on the third day’s play, yesterday, in the first Test against England, at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, southwest England. --Photo: AFP

Opener Kraigg Brathwaite snapped a run of poor form with a half-century while wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich got his first fifty on English soil as they helped West Indies carve out an invaluable first innings lead on the third day of the opening Test, yesterday.

Replying to the hosts’ first innings of 204, West Indies marched to 318 all out, to secure a 114-run advantage and remain in control heading into today’s critical penultimate day of the contest at the Ageas Bowl.

Brathwaite, under the microscope after failing to pass 50 in his last 21 innings, top-scored with 65 while Dowrich, who managed only 24 runs from six innings on his last tour here three years ago, stroked a polished 61. But England then staved off a 10-over burst from West Indies pacers to reach 15 without loss at the close, setting up an intriguing fourth day.

Blessed with welcomed sunshine for the first time in the game, West Indies flourished also through the efforts of Roston Chase, who gathered a patient 47, and Shamarh Brooks, who chipped in with a classy 39.

The Caribbean side appeared poised to build an even bigger lead when they reached tea on 235 for five with Dowrich and Chase well set, but lost their way in the final session as captain Ben Stokes ran through the lower order to finish with four for 49. Veteran seamer Jimmy Anderson picked up three for 62, while off-spinner Dom Bess claimed two for 51.

Resuming the morning on 57 for one, West Indies owed much of their enterprise to Brathwaite whose 18th Test half-century required 125 balls in slightly over three hours at the crease and included six fours. On 20 at the start, the right-handed extended his second wicket stand with Shai Hope (16) to 59, frustrating England’s hopes of an early breakthrough.

With the England attack proving ineffective, West Indies safely navigated the first hour before losing Hope three deliveries after the drinks break, when he edged an ambitious drive at Bess for Stokes at first slip to snare an easy catch at 102 for two.

Three overs later, Brathwaite raised his first half-century in two years when he steered Bess for a single to backward point, ending a frustrating run of low scores. He had added a further 38 with Brooks when he became the second casualty of the morning, lbw to Stokes 10 minutes before lunch, after striking two fours earlier in the over.

On 159 for three at the interval, West Indies lost Brooks about half-hour following the resumption, feathering a catch behind off Anderson after adding a further 12 to his lunch time 27. The right-hander struck six fours off 71 balls in nearly an hour-and-a-half at the crease.

Brooks was one of two wickets to fall for 13 runs as Jermaine Blackwood followed cheaply soon afterwards for 12.

Starting his first Test in nearly three years, Blackwood never settled and eventually gifted his wicket by driving an innocuous delivery from Bess to mid-off after facing 22 deliveries. Needing a partnership, the tourists found one in Dowrich and Chase who stitched up the innings in an 81-run, sixth wicket stand on either side of tea.

Dowrich, positive from the outset with two straight hits for boundaries off Bess in the first six balls he faced, survived a dropped chance on 25 off a return catch to the same bowler to notch eight fours all told off 115 balls in three hours.

In contrast, Chase soaked up 142 balls in just over three hours and hit six fours -- two in one over through the leg side after tea off the ineffective Barbados-born seamer Jofra Archer who went wicket-less.

On 27 at tea, Chase was the first to fall nearly an hour after the resumption when he was struck in front by Anderson and given his marching orders after England resorted to DRS.

Dowrich completed his eighth Test half-century 20 minutes later but then watched as captain Jason Holder holed out to deep square off Stokes for five and tail-ender Alzarri Joseph lashed three fours in 18 before being clean bowled by Stokes.

Dowrich’s resistance ended when he walked after glancing a leg-side catch behind off a rising delivery from Stokes, to be ninth out.

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