(Reuters) -West Indies passed England’s first innings total on Friday, taking a 28-run lead in a curious deciding test that has followed a similar pattern over the first two days in Grenada.
A flurry of late boundaries lifted West Indies to 232 for eight at stumps, thanks to an unbroken 55-run partnership between Joshua Da Silva (54) and Kemar Roach (25) that followed a 49-run stand between Da Silva and Alzarri Joseph (28).
Da Silva batted patiently and with style, bringing up his half century in 144 balls by flicking Craig Overton to the mid-wicket boundary.
Both teams have taken wickets seemingly at will with the shiny new ball, but have struggled once the ball has become soft and lost its zip by about the 40th over, making early inroads imperative on a pitch that has offered much more in the morning.
“The wicket as we saw today goes through periods of doing a bit but then when it doesn’t you can score runs,” said England opening bowler Chris Woakes, who overcame a poor start to pick up 3-48.
“Still had moments where it showed a bit of variable bounce. I think it played better as the ball got softer.”
If West Indies were frustrated on Thursday after the final three England partnerships put on 137 runs, including a 10th-wicket stand of 90, the tables were turned on Friday.
Which way the match turns over the weekend is anyone’s guess but a draw seems unlikely unless rain intervenes – a welcome prospect after the first two tests ended in drab stalemates.
Earlier, England recovered from some poor early bowling, picking up six wickets for 45 after finally breaking a 50-run opening partnership between Kraigg Brathwaite and John Campbell.
Stokes, Saqib Mahmood and Overton took a wicket each before lunch as England sent Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks and Campbell back to the pavilion respectively in short order.
Brathwaite (17) and Brooks (13) were both plum lbw to balls that kept low, neither even bothering to review, while Campbell was well caught by wicketkeeper Ben Foakes for 35.
Overton had previously struck Campbell in the helmet twice with successive balls, dismissing him shortly afterwards.
The turnaround followed an inauspicious start to the innings by Woakes and Overton, who wasted the new ball by bowling too wide, allowing the ever-stoic Brathwaite and the more attacking Campbell to leave the ball alone with monotonous regularity.
Brathwaite, who made a painstakingly slow but effective 160 in the second test, took 14 balls to get off the mark.
England captain Joe Root replaced Woakes after only three overs, while Overton lasted five in his first spell.
When Stokes sent Brathwaite packing it must have been a delightful sight to see the back of the West Indies captain, who batted for nearly 12 hours in the first innings of the second test and was unbeaten on 56 in the second innings.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Toby Davis and Ken Ferris)