A dismal series was finally brought to life on Thursday when a combination of a lively pitch, great bowling from the West Indies and an equally good late batting from England intriguingly equalized the third Test.
England bounced back from the brink of disaster thanks to a 10th wicket record of 90 between Jack Leach and Saqib Mahmood to go all out with 204 at stumps on day one of the series decider in Grenada.
It was a modest sum, but still far better than the visitors could have dreamed of when they were 114 for nine, having previously been 67 for seven.
In his second Test, Tailender Mahmood (49) not only achieved his highest first class result, but also third highest from an English No 11.
The bespectacled Leach was equally impressive as he scored 41 goals after being dropped to 10 at the opener by Kyle Mayers, a regular chance that could haunt the hosts.
Just when it looked like England were going to survive to the end, Mahmood dragged a ball onto his stumps from part-time weirdo Jermaine Blackwood, who he could easily have left alone.
For all their early successes in breaking top orders, the West Indies let England off the hook with poor bowling, fielding and wicket-keeping as their frustration with their inability to mop up the 10th wicket grew.
Captain Kraigg Brathwaite rested his five-pointed pace attack and waited for the second ball, deploying himself and fellow part-time spinner Nkrumah Bonner.
They certainly didn’t worry the English tailenders, who used runs almost at will, a far cry from before when the West Indies’ tempo attack left the busy pitch looking like a minefield.
“West Indies threw everything at England and even ran out of juice during the day,” said former England fast bowler Steve Harmison.
A remarkable day in Grenada.
— ICC (@ICC) March 24, 2022
Earlier, bowling all-rounder Mayers took two key early wickets without conceding a run as West Indies sought victory in the Caribbean Series after drawing on flats in the first two Tests.
Mayers quickly justified his inclusion after being selected first on the series, replacing spinner Veerasammy Permaul.
Watched by Keith Mitchell, the prime minister of the tiny island nation of barely 100,000, Mayers won the first two wickets and got opener Zak Crawley for seven in a short cover.
He then outpaced England captain Joe Root for a duck from a delivery that strayed just enough off the field to hit the edge of the bat.
It was Root’s first Test duck against the West Indies and his 11th overall.
Mayers ended with numbers 2-13 from 10 overs.
Kemar Roach and Alzarri Joseph each claimed two wickets, while Jayden Seales won three, including two beauties bowling Ben Foakes (7) and Chris Woakes (25).
The collapse in England’s top order more justified Brathwaite’s decision to send England at-bat and it remains to be seen whether England’s pace attack will garner as much support when they bowl in the West Indies on Friday morning.