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England v West Indies: Late slump leaves tourists as favourites

England lost five wickets for 30 runs late on the fourth day to leave West Indies as favourites to win the first Test in Southampton.

Zak Crawley’s 76, allied to 46 from Ben Stokes, looked to be batting England into a winning position.

Both fell in successive overs to begin the England slide as the tourists lifted themselves with the second new ball late in the day.

Pace bowler Alzarri Joseph removed Crawley and Jos Buttler after Jason Holder struck another blow in his battle with fellow captain and all-rounder Stokes.

Dom Bess survived being dropped and a tight lbw shout, only to be bowled by Shannon Gabriel, who had Ollie Pope play on four balls later.

Overall, England fell from 249-3 to 279-8, ultimately closing on 284-8 – a lead of 170.

With the pitch showing some uneven bounce, particularly from one end, England will have a chance of defending whatever target they set.

However, West Indies have been impressive throughout the match, and they have a superb opportunity to go ahead in the three-match series.

No crowd, no problem

While there have been times when the behind-closed-doors environment has felt eerie and lifeless, a day when the two sides arm-wrestled for the initiative has set up what could be a grandstand finish.

England deserve credit for the way their batting improved from their first-innings 204 all out, albeit in conditions where they would have had no excuse for failing again.

There were times when West Indies were forced to retreat, but they never lost control, meaning they were only ever one or two wickets away from being on top.

Sunday morning will see England wanting to eke out as many runs as they can, but, whatever they set West Indies, all four results will be possible.

The final day will also reveal if England’s strategy of batting first and omitting Stuart Broad was correct.

By choosing to bat on a damp first day, the hosts hoped they would reap the benefit of bowling last on a dry surface that would suit the extra pace of Mark Wood and Jofra Archer, and turn for off-spinner Bess.

We will soon know if they were right.

West Indies rewarded late on

West Indies started the day in a strong position – England were 99 behind with all 10 second-innings wickets in hand.

If the tourists were hoping to ram home their advantage, they were thwarted by some dogged England resistance in lovely batting conditions.

West Indies maintained their discipline, though. All of Holder, Kemar Roach and off-spinner Roston Chase kept a lid on England’s scoring, and the rewards came.(BBC)

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