BEEN here before. Last week actually.
And if it was not as dull in Barbados as it had been in Antigua, two pudding pitches have been indigestible for those wanting real entertainment.
Brathwaite ensured England could not taste victoryCredit: Reuters
Root could not break West Indies’ resolve on day fiveCredit: Reuters
England were ground down and forced to settle for a drawCredit: AFP
While Kraigg Brathwaite – aided and abetted once more by Jermaine Blackwood – deserved credit for another effort of sheer resolve, Groundhog Day was no fun at all.
Brathwaite completed a truly remarkable personal performance to ensure his side travel to Grenada for the final Test on level terms.
Under pressure, he batted out the 65 overs required to keep England’s victory charge at bay after they declared on 185-6.
In the process, Brathwaite broke Brian Lara’s West Indies record of 582 deliveries in a single Test, in his staggering 400 not out against England in 2004.
Over the 15 sessions, the Bajan Windies skipper was on the field at his home ground for all but 19 overs – at the end of Saturday – adding an unbeaten 56 to his first innings 160 and facing 673 balls in total as his side closed on 135-5.
As on Friday, when he and Blackwood put on 173 for the fourth wicket, the duo blocked, blocked and blocked again, taking time, and overs, out of the game.
Even when Jack Leach, who bowled 95 overs in the match, winkled out Blackwood, caught by the kneeling Jonny Bairstow – and with six, even seven, men around the bat – Brathwaite refused to buckle, a triumph of determination.
Leach’s spin earned three wickets while a double-blast by Saqib Mahmood briefly raised hopes of only England’s fourth win in 17 matches at the Kensington Oval after they had set a target of 282.
They got there by adding 144 in 24.5 overs, thanks to some lusty willow wielding by Dan Lawrence, Ben Stokes and Bairstow.
All five England wickets went down swinging, the pattern set when Alex Lees holed out to deep mid-wicket in the third over of the day, with soaring sixes from Stokes, Lawrence and Bairstow.
Joe Root, though, allowed the innings to meander on before he eventually called it a day at lunch.
A source of regret, possibly, once any chance of the Windies having a dart at the unlikely target swiftly evaporated.
Leach was on after five overs and with his sixth ball he struck – on review – as the turn took Campbell’s glove and thigh pad before being pouched by Lees.
Mahmood was next in the act, Root running round to gleefully grab the edge off Shamarh Brooks when Crawley juggled behind him.
And when Root then took a regulation catch off the Lancashire seamer, to send Nkrumah Bonner back for three, the home side were 39-3 with almost 53 overs left.
Brathwaite and Blackwood, who had batted England into the dust on day three, picked up where they had left off for 25 overs.
As hope was starting to disappear, Leach found the edge of Blackwood’s prod, where Bairstow, fielding on his knees at gulley, clung on.
Nine runs later, Lawrence flung himself low to his left to remove Jason Holder for a duck and give Leach his third.
But it was not to be for England, Joshua Da Silva keeping Brathwaite company to the end.
All to play for, starting on Thursday. Can we have a proper pitch, though?