Leach and Mahmood save England from embarrassment in Grenada


Jack Leach and Saqib Mahmood’s 11th wicket partnership of 90 saved England from embarrassment on day one of the third Test with the tourists having been reduced to 114-9 by West Indies.

Whilst there had been calls from players and supporters alike for West Indian ground staff to produce a pitch that generated an even contest between bat and ball, it would be a drastic exaggeration to claim that anyone on the isle of Grenada foresaw England’s embarrassing attempt of constructing a commanding first-innings total.

Only Alex Lees (31) and Chris Woakes (25) posted scores worth more than 14 before Leach (41*) and Mahmood (49) began to embark on what could potentially prove to be a series-saving partnership.

Given the potent display of seam bowling delivered by the hosts to claim the previous nine English wickets, you could forgive skipper Kraigg Brathwaite for feeling somewhat perplexed with his side’s inability to dismiss either tail-ender.

Leach, as every Australian fan knows, has form for digging in with the bat. His 1 not-out at Headingley in the Ashes of 2019 will never be forgotten and the Somerset spinner exhibited a defensive foundation that was absent among his teammates and also a handful of eye-catching strokes.

Meanwhile, Mahmood fell ever-so cruelly short of registering his first-ever career half-century. The Lancashire paceman’s highest score across any format of his career before this Test was 41, indicative of the achievement.  Once settled at the crease, he supported Leach well and grew in confidence, even striking a career-first six off the bowling of Kyle Mayers.

It was the part-time off-spin of Jermaine Blackwood that, eventually, made the key breakthrough after Mahmood dragged onto his stumps in search of 50 with only three balls of play remaining.

Undoubtedly, Leach and Mahmood deserve immense praise for propelling their side to a score of 204, not since 1885 have numbers 10 and 11 top-scored in a men’s Test, yet, another woeful innings in the Caribbean cannot be swept under the carpet.

Initially reminiscent of displays that provided scores of 46, 51 and 72 in 1994, 2009 and 2019 respectively, England supporters on social media have already expressed concerns that their side is unable to score runs in challenging conditions as opposed to the lifeless pitches on show in the first two games.

The dismissal of Zak Crawley (7) set the tone for the innings with the 24-year-old playing an archetypal booming drive into the hands of Brathwaite at short extra cover off the bowling of Mayers.

Replacing Veerasammy Permaul, Mayers had been brought into the side primarily for his work with that bat, but it was his crafty medium-pace bowling that troubled England with late swing and a wobbling seam.

At one point his figures remarkably read 5-5-0-2, that second wicket being the monumental scalp of Joe Root who edged into the hands of Joshua Da Silva for a ninth-ball duck to leave his team 29-2.

Dan Lawrence (8) was next to go, pinned LBW by the ever-impressive Jayden Seales. The quick fall of wickets would only continue into the afternoon session.

Ben Stokes found himself heading back to the pavilion for just two when toe-ending an attempted pull shot back into the hands of Alzarri Joseph, prior to Kemar Roach seeing off Lees in spite of the Durham batsman’s resolute efforts.

By the time Joseph and Roach had both added second wickets to their names with the dismissals of Jonny Bairstow (0) and Ben Foakes (7), England had lost four wickets for only 14 runs, finding themselves in a perilous position at 67-7.

Craig Overton (14) would see his stumps rearranged by Roach as hopes of the tail adding vital runs to the scoreboard faded drastically, even more so when Woakes was bowled by Seales.

Nevertheless, England’s unlikeliest of heroes stepped up when it really mattered, putting their colleagues to shame and arguably proving a massive point to the batting unit.

England will begin day two with a first-innings lead of 204, one that Brathwaite and West Indies will fancy their chances of bettering.

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