After 21 wickets had fallen on the first four days of the match, the likelihood of England forcing victory on an unforgiving surface at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium had always been slim. And slim seemed to have left town when it was confirmed that Wood – who had been withdrawn from the attack before lunch on day three – would play no further part in the match, after reporting “acute pain” in his injured right elbow during a nets session before the start of play on the final day.

Having won the toss, On Day 1, England captain Joe Root opted to bat first. Debutant opener Alex Lees scored off the fifth ball he faced, threading Roach through backward point for four. He only survived another three balls though, before he was rapped on the front knee roll by a full, straight Roach delivery which narrowly evaded the bat and struck in line with middle and off and, despite a hopeful review, Lees was sent on his way with just those four runs to his name.

Zak Crawley had looked in decent form, driving Seales to the boundary twice in three balls. But then Joshua Da Silva took a stunner – diving low to his left as Crawley sent an inside edge off Seales that slipped past off stump into the keeper’s outstretched glove – and all of a sudden, England were 17 for 2 with barely 20 minutes gone.

In an ever-familiar territory with an innings resurrection riding on Root’s shoulders – this time at No. 3 in England’s revamped line-up – it was almost 23 for 3 when Root, on 9, slashed at a rising Roach delivery which then sailed through the fingers of Jermaine Blackwood at third slip. As the ball raced to the boundary, both sides were left to ponder the potential significance of the moment.

Roach ensured it was a moot point, probably to Blackwood’s relief, as Root left the very next ball, a pinpoint in-ducker that clipped the top of off stump and England were, in fact, 27 for 3 and in a bad place.

Dan Lawrence was reprieved when Blackwood missed a tough chance off Roach in the cordon again. But Blackwood eventually clung on to dismiss Lawrence, who reached for a Holder outswinger and sent a thick outside edge to second slip.

Stokes and Bairstow ground through the second hour of the session, adding nine runs in 8.2 overs before lunch.

After the break, Holder failed to react at the second slip as Stokes.

Seales produced the perfect riposte on the last ball, a fuller-length delivery that swung in late to defeat Stokes’ attempted drive via an inside edge on to leg stump.

After Foakes’ dismissal, Chris Woakes arrived to round out the ‘Stokes, Foakes, Woakes’ cult theme of the day and he shared an unbroken 54-run partnership with Bairstow.

the day belonged to Bairstow, who crafted gritty and intelligent innings on a dry, slow pitch that offered little to either side. He faced 127 balls for a well-earned fifty, brought up with a four off Veerasammy Permaul as he continued to deploy the cut to great effect any time there was width on offer. But he upped the tempo after that, scoring his next 50 off just 63 balls, raising his hundred by sweeping Kraigg Brathwaite to the boundary and celebrating with an elated roar and punch of the air

Day 2 had not so much the twists and turns of a helter-skelter but the slow, loping swings of a pirate ship ride after England’s recovery from 48 for 4 to a respectable 311 built on Jonny Bairstow’s century and then West Indies’ rapid response via Kraigg Brathwaite and John Campbell as the visiting bowlers failed to penetrate with the new ball.

West Indies were enjoying all the fun of the fair at 44 without loss by lunch, Brathwaite going along at a run-a-ball, but by tea they were 127 for 4 and England had wrested back some control. Then Nkrumah Bonner and Jason Holder combined for an unbroken 75-run partnership for the fifth wicket that kept their side in the contest.

Chris Woakes was one of the bowlers tipped by England’s interim director of cricket, Andrew Strauss, to blossom as a leader of the attack in the controversial absence of long-time spearheads James Anderson and Stuart Broad. But he endured a torrid day, conceding 23 off his first three overs and only finding relief when he snared the wicket of Jermaine Blackwood moments before the second of several brief showers which halted play intermittently through the day, brought about an early tea break.

Spinner Jack Leach had bowled five tight overs until Campbell clubbed him for four over extra cover and Brathwaite thundered a six down the ground in Leach’s sixth as West Indies’ opening swelled to 83. But it was Craig Overton who made the initial breakthrough.

Foakes put down a difficult chance diving low to his left off Blackwood, who was yet to score when he got an inside edge to a Wood delivery which found the keeper’s glove but failed to stay there as he went to the ground.

Blackwood, eventually caught in the gully by Overton, was given not out by umpire Joel Wilson amid hearty appeals from the England side, who swiftly reviewed. UltraEdge confirmed Blackwood had indeed laid bat on the ball before it struck his thigh pad and looped into the air as West Indies lost a fourth-wicket for 44 runs.

Leach bowled nine maidens in all – seven of them on the trot in the evening session – in an excellent comeback from a chastening Ashes tour as Holder and Bonner chose their moments well in a sensible, steadying effort. Holder led the way, picking off six fours and a cracking six – over long-on off Root.

Earlier, England resumed at 268 for 6 with Bairstow on 109 but, with the ball, only six overs old, West Indies had designs on wrapping up the innings quickly. They did so before lunch, but not before Bairstow had reached 140 and taken the England total into the elusive territory – past the 300-mark for the first time since August 2021.

He was the last man out as West Indian bowlers folded England innings.

On Day 3, Nkrumah Bonner played an innings of patience, resilience and reward to mirror his international career with a hard-earned century guiding West Indies to a first-innings lead over England.

Bonner fell for 123 shortly before stumps on the third day in Antigua, to the elation of England’s bowlers who had done it tough on a benign pitch against a stubborn West Indies line-up. Veerasammy Permaul offered keen resistance to remain unbeaten on 26 at stumps with Jayden Seales yet to score and the hosts 62 runs ahead.

At the age of 33, Bonner raised the second century of his fledgling Test career, which is only 10 matches old and began in February last year – almost a decade after he made his international debut in a T20 against England at the Oval in 2011. Bonner played just one more T20I, in March 2012, before eventually earning a recall to the West Indies set-up, initially in January last year for three ODIs in Bangladesh before playing two Tests on that same tour.

He had a life on 73, when Zak Crawley spilt an edge off Jack Leach at slip, but reached his century off 257 deliveries on the second ball of the evening session, sweeping a Leach half-volley on leg stump behind square for four. Bonner celebrated with a relieved sigh as he embraced Kemar Roach, with whom he ultimately shared a partnership to follow the theme of the day – patience – worth 44 off 173 balls for the eighth wicket.

His first Test ton had come at the same ground as this one, a similarly attritional 113 not out in a Player-of-the-Match performance in the drawn first Test with Sri Lanka. On this occasion, he batted for nine hours to lead West Indies’ recovery from 127 for 4, build a small but potentially crucial lead and put merciless miles in the legs of an England attack without – no, not those two – an injured Mark Wood, who disappeared to the changing room shortly before lunch having bowled just five overs for the day and 17 for the match before succumbing to an elbow problem.

On Day 4, Root looked genuinely impressed by what he was seeing. As Zak Crawley drove Kemar Roach down the ground for a boundary – not exactly sweetly struck but with the momentum of his considerable levers behind it – the England captain met him in the middle of the pitch for a couple of fist-bumps and approving nods, chattering away in encouragement and eliciting a broad grin from his young charge.

Given that it was boundary number eight of 16 and counting for Crawley, who was compiling the second Test century of his career, the exchange may not have been unusual but in the circumstances, it stood out.

After a dirty day three when Root more commonly wore a look of anguish as his attack failed to capitalise on prior opportunity, not to mention a tumultuous start to the year, England turned the tables on West Indies with an unbroken second-wicket stand in Antigua worth 193, a century and fifty so far to its protagonists and a 153-run lead heading into the final day.

The hosts failed to make further inroads after Roach removed debutant opener Alex Lees, lbw in single figures for the second time in the match, to put the tourists at 24 for 1, still 40 runs in arrears.

On a pitch that had admittedly offered nothing for the bowlers all match, the West Indies bowlers leaked runs and the domination of England grew.

On Day 5, Nkrumah Bonner and Jason Holder drew the sting of England’s depleted attack in a tense final session of the first Test in Antigua, as their 80-run partnership, spanning 34.4 resolute overs, thwarted a well-judged declaration from Joe Root that briefly looked set to deliver an unlikely victory in a previously bat-dominated contest.

After Root himself had become England’s third centurion of the match – a feat they last achieved on the tour of India in 2016-17 – West Indies were left needing a stiff but tantalising target of 286 in a minimum of 71 overs, against an attack lacking the services of Mark Wood, the man whose habitual 90mph pace might have been expected to unlock an unforgiving surface.

Instead, England’s fight was carried by the disciplined, probing spin of Jack Leach, who bowled with great accuracy, and with five men camped around the bat for the majority of the final session, but with little luck to finish with 3 for 57 in 30.1 overs. Ben Stokes was England’s other main threat as he once again belied the pre-match caveats about his fitness to bang out 13 more overs for 24, but having prised out the key early wicket of Kraigg Brathwaite, he too was unable to get the better of a dogged fifth-wicket pair.

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Note: Inputs from ESPNcricinfo

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