Contributions throughout West Indies’ top order gave them a solid platform on the opening day of the series, but the indefatigable James Anderson brought England roaring back into the contest.
Jason Holder won the toss and elected to bat, meaning debutant John Campbell was instantly into his work. He started well, taking a particular liking to the gentle left-arm swing of Sam Curran, striking his first ball in Test cricket for four and following up with another three boundaries in Curran’s first 14 balls.
He continued to play his strokes, but was eventually first to fall for a promising 53-ball 44. He was dismissed by Moeen Ali, who beat him on the sweep and thumped into his pads. Campbell’s opening partner, the doughty, solid Kraigg Brathwaite, took up the impetus, diverging from his usual becalmed manner to strike Moeen for two fours and a six in eight balls.
He and Shai Hope would extend West Indies’ total to 126/1, leaving England looking a little bereft of ideas, before a double-strike from Ben Stokes evened the scales. He first dismissed Brathwaite, enticing him to nick to Jos Buttler at slip who claimed a good low catch before swinging one into Darren Bravo, playing his first Test in two years, who played injudiciously across the line and was struck in front.
England had their tails up, but an unexpected rain delay brought an early Tea and stalled their momentum. Hope carried on past 50 before James Anderson struck, ending a wicket-less drought extending back 342 deliveries, to his first over of the series against Sri Lanka. It was just reward for a probing, metronomic display which saw him concede just over one run per over through the day.
He almost had a second wicket soon after as new batsman Shimron Hetmyer struck firmly to Jos Buttler’s right at extra cover, where the diving fielder couldn’t cling on. He made England pay, bringing up his half-century from 51 balls and playing some scintillating strokes, striking each of Moeen and Adil Rashid – who otherwise bowled tidily – for big sixes. He and Roston Chase drove West Indies to 240/4 and put their side in the driving seat, before the lionhearted Anderson brought England storming back into the contest, taking three key wickets with the second new ball.
He struck thrice in three overs, his 21st, 22nd, and 23rd of a tiring but ultimately rewarding day, first dismissing Roston Chase for 54, who nicked off, then Shane Dowrich, who got into an awful tangle to a short ball and lobbed up a catch to slip, and then the Windies captain Jason Holder, who popped back a return catch.
Anderson ended with extraordinary figures of 23-12-34-4 and will hope to complete his 27th Test five-for tomorrow, though that task was made slightly harder by Stokes striking once more in the final over of the day, removing Kemar Roach. West Indies had slid from 240/4 to 264/8.
The late slide only put into sharper focus Windies’ profligacy earlier in the day. Five batsmen passed 40, with none, as yet, making it to 60. Much rests on Hetmyer, and whether he can build on his attractive, fluent half-century and somehow guide his side up to 300.