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  • England v West Indies, 2nd Test, Trent Bridge, 3rd day

England close in on victory after Bresnan heroics

ESPN staff
May 27, 2012 « Ivanovic: Real Madrid are after me | Chartbeat test »
Tim Bresnan's late burst has put England in a commanding position © PA Photos
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West Indies 370 and 61 for 6 (Bresnan 3-10) lead England 428 (Strauss 141, Pietersen 80) by three runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball commentary

It does not matter how patiently you scrap, or how successful your bowling plans prove to be. When you have arguably the weakest top three in Test cricket, one of them is back at the hotel with influenza anyway, and the bedrock of your batting hooks a ball down fine leg's throat you are not going to win many Test matches.

That is especially the case when the IPL has stolen some of your star performers and you are playing the No. 1 Test side in the world on a Trent Bridge ground that, even in its guise as a permanently sun-drenched land of lost youth, fills that side with supreme confidence that they can wrest control of the Test in one outstanding session with the ball. To reduce West Indies to 61 for 6 exceeded perhaps even England's wildest expectations.

Tim Bresnan, who loves this ground, where he has good command of reverse swing, closed off the session expertly with figures of 3 for 10. Add to this an unbeaten 39 (which he described as "a bit dogged, really") when an England first-innings lead was not certain, and despite the impressive rival claims of Steve Finn he can look forward to retaining his place at Edgbaston.

A West Indies attack that in style, with the possible exception of Kemar Roach, is about as far removed from their great attacks of their heyday as it is possible to be, strove manfully to restrict England's first-innings lead to 58 on a third day when many assumed that it would be in excess of 250. Instead of a back-breaking day in the sun, they bowled resourcefully, keeping England to a further 169 after they began at 259 for 2.

Within the 17 overs of the final session, England laid those efforts to waste. James Anderson picked off the openers in his second and third overs, Kieran Powell driving irresponsibly and dragging on; Adrian Barath stuck in front of middle with minimal foot movement. Does Chris Gayle, one wonder, ever feel a pang of guilt as he cold-shoulders West Indies Test cricket in favour of the riches of IPL or is he unabashed at what he sees as simple financial logic?

As Kirk Edwards, the flu victim, could not bat until No. 7, Shivnarine Chanderpaul came in after 4.2 overs. Some have clamoured for him to move up the order, but presumably not like this. He lasted 15 balls before Stuart Broad, face reddening in the heat, upped the intensity when it was most needed, fired in a well-directed short ball and Chanderpaul's top-edged hook flew obligingly to Jonathan Trott at fine leg.

Darren Bravo is regarded in the Caribbean as a batsman of immense promise, but he has now been outgunned by Australia and England in turn. He was caught on the back foot, playing across one from Bresnan that kept a little low. If the shot was technically dubious, his decision to ask for a review was criminal; replays predictably showed the ball hitting middle. When Bresnan trapped Ramdin in front, Marlon Samuels wisely talked his partner out of wasting the second review.

Edwards must have wondered if his journey was really necessary. A woeful tour was encapsulated by a woeful day; a woeful day encapsulated by a woeful minute at the crease. Stupified, eyes half closed, he heard two lbw appeals in turn, the second of them successful for Bresnan, to round off arguably his best spell of the summer.

England also owed much to Andrew Strauss, who was 102 not out at start of play and who crucially broke his habits of old by surviving into mid-afternoon. He never quite recovered the fluency of the previous day as England's visions of 600-plus evaporated; not as much reconnecting with his form of the previous day as sticking around in the hope of an introduction, but his longevity was invaluable. He fell on 141, caught at the wicket off Darren Sammy.

Strauss has only ever added a maximum of six runs when he has had a hundred in the bank at start of play, a statistical quirk that had been extended in the first Test at Lord's. He had admitted to his frustration on the previous evening, saying: "Scoring a hundred takes a bit out of you physically so it is a bit tricky the next morning but there's no reason why you can't kick on and get a big score. It's a mindset thing the next day, to try and reconnect with what you did the day before rather than worrying too much."

England's individual batting weaknesses were exposed at regular intervals before lunch: Kevin Pietersen's fondness for moving across his stumps, Jonny Bairstow's apparent fallibility against short-pitched quick bowling - Kemar Roach's aggressive use of the second new ball was quite an introduction to the realities of Test cricket - and Matt Prior's vulnerability to the good-length ball that seams back.

Pietersen, 72 not out overnight, had tweeted his intention to go to bed shortly before 7pm. Perhaps he is still on India time, a sort of vicarious link to the IPL. Or perhaps he was so eager to make use of a flat pitch, and pull alongside Strauss' collection of 21 Test centuries again, that he felt 12 hours sleep was advisable. Whatever, it did not do the trick as he only added only eight, lbw as Ravi Rampaul cut one back.

When Aleem Dar gives a batsman out, it is safest to assume that he is probably right, but he erred when he turned down West Indies' appeal for lbw against Ian Bell with the first over of the new ball. West Indies reviewed it and Bell - who had also been dropped on 15 by the wicketkeeper, Denesh Ramdin, off Shane Shillingford - was clearly out. The last of the morning's victims was Prior, whose aggressive intent ended when Sammy cut one back to bowl him.

West Indies, short on resources with Shillingford's offspin ineffective, settled for containment in the shape of a wholehearted spell by Sammy. But dispensing with an England tail is not an easy business. Folklore has it that the pup with the shortest, thickest tail is the pick of the litter and in terms of Test rankings it appeared the belief might be well-founded as Bresnan and Broad added 53 for the eighth wicket before Broad fell to a top-edged paddle sweep, not his forte.

Graeme Swann feathered an inside edge against Marlon Samuels that was spotted by the new, exceptionally-sensitive Hot Spot. As Swann walked off, bemused, West Indies felt right in the match. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

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