IT RARELY rains in Antigua.
But the bowling troubles are pouring down on Joe Root’s head – even if the first Test destiny is still up in the air.
Unlike Wednesday, when the England attack struggled to find line or length, they were disciplined under fire, despite Mark Wood’s elbow issue keeping him out for most of play.
With Wood potentially not bowling again, going for less than two per over as Nkrumah Bonner’s patient century ground the home side into the lead was at least a sign of resolve. They never lost control.
But it was Jack Leach who led the way with his left arm spin, rather than any of the seamers – except the one who was not supposed to be turning his arm over too much, Ben Stokes.
Indeed, Stokes may have paid the price for his exertions, finishing the day anxiously pawing his painful left foot.
And the repeated failure of Chris Woakes and Craig Overton to fill the void left by the absent Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad stood out like a sore thumb.
England’s lack of penetration, on an admittedly placid and docile North Sound track, made it a tough watch for the Barmy Army.
Bonner, despite a few moments of concern, steered the West Indies to 373-9 and a first innings lead of 61 so far, although there were few signs of the pitch breaking up.
He had some luck, almost pouched at short leg off Stokes and twice surviving England reviews by Leach on the umpire’s call.
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Yet Bonner deserved his good fortune for a sterling effort which brought him 123 off 355 balls, including 12 fours and a hooked six, before tickling Dan Lawrence’s part-time spin into Ben Foakes’ mitts at the death.
But England’s issue was that lack of real threat from the bowlers after Stokes had Jason Holder caught behind for 45 with just four added.
Stokes’s lifter to Bonner fell inches short of substitute Ollie Pope but for the second day running, Woakes and Overton were poor with the new cherry.
Overton did think he had struck when the umpire’s finger was raised as Josh Da Silva swung across the line.
But the review – one of half a dozen that went the Windies way – reprieved the keeper, whose partnership with Bonner reached 73 before he was finally trapped in front by Leach.
England, already without Wood, needed the momentum-changer.
Overton had Alzarri Joseph caught on the pull and Zak Crawley should have accounted for Kemar Roach at slip off Leach before another edge flew past his left hand.
Costly misses, Roach scoring back to back boundaries off Root to take his side into the lead.
Bonner brought up his second Test ton sweeping Leach to the fence from the second ball after tea.
Pope’s smart gather and throw accounted for Roach but Bonner – via another successful appeal against Stokes after a thick inside edge – and Veerasammy Permaul added an useful 45 before Lawrence struck.
Another tough England day, of a winter to forget.