AN INSPIRED bowling spell by rejuvenated seamer Stuart Broad ensured England enjoyed a productive second day in Grenada to leave the second Test against the West Indies finely poised.
Broad claimed three of the five West Indian wickets to fall, to finish with figures of 4-61, while unflustered batsman Marlon Samuels completed his century for the hosts before falling to James Anderson.
The West Indies were dismissed for 299 after a frustrating final wicket stand of 52 between recalled duo Devendra Bishoo and Shannon Gabriel.
Skipper Alastair Cook and fellow under-pressure opener Jonathan Trott navigated 26 overs of the England reply as the tourists finished 74-0 at the close, to trail by 225. Cook finished the day unbeaten on 37 to pass Alec Stewart and assume second place in England’s all-time leading run-scoring list, while Trott made 33.
Although three full days remain and England are well set to force the issue, a draw would still appear the most likely outcome unless scoreboard pressure eradicates the need for the visitors to bat again or sparks fly when the West Indies return to the crease.
If England are unable to force victory, their tour of the Caribbean will hinge on a winner-takes-all shoot out in Barbados in the third and final Test, which starts on 1 May.
Whether England have been blighted by unresponsive pitches, subdued bowling performances at times or a lack of adventure in team selection, for large parts the series has failed to live up to expectations, despite aspects of positivity.
Incoming England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves previously stated there would be “enquiries” if Alastair Cook’s side did not beat a “mediocre” West Indies side.
Furthermore, it was a tour that was supposed to draw a line under the disastrous World Cup campaign in Australia and New Zealand and act as a morale-boosting exercise with bigger battles coming in the summer.
England face a two-Test mini series against New Zealand in May and June before the first of five Ashes clashes takes place at the Swalec Stadium in Cardiff on 8 July.
Maverick batsman Kevin Pietersen continued his quest to force his way into Ashes contention yesterday at the very ground where England and Australia will recommence their rivalry with an unbeaten half century.
Pietersen cracked 53 off 70 balls in Surrey’s second innings against Glamorgan before skipper Gareth Batty declared in the vain attempt to force a result on a flat wicket in the Welsh capital.
The England and Wales Cricket Board, meanwhile, have declined a request from Yorkshire to allow leg-spinner Adil Rashid to return home, despite the 27-year-old being left out of the opening two Tests.