North Sound (Antigua), April 18:
Jason Holder struck a magnificent, unbeaten maiden Test hundred as the West Indies conjured up a sterling effort to escape with a tense draw on the final day of the opening Test against England here.
The 23-year-old, in only his fourth Test, struck 103 not out, a high class innings that helped the West Indies to bat out the day at the Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium on Friday and finish on 350/7, reports CMC.
Once the West Indies lost three wickets in the first session to stumble to 162/5, it was obvious that the target of 438 was out of question. Holder, batting at No.8, then put his head down to anchor two key partnerships which frustrated the England attack.
He posted 105 for the seventh wicket with captain Denesh Ramdin (57) and then put on a further 56 with Kemar Roach (15 not out) in an unbroken eighth wicket stand which enabled the West Indies to see out the last hour. Roach faced 55 balls and struck two fours but his time at the crease which was crucial in taking time out of the game.
The right-handed Holder faced 149 balls and struck 15 fours, most of which were exquisite off-side drives.
No such enterprise was envisioned at the start or the day when the West Indies lost three wickets for 64 runs in the first session. Opener Devon Smith, unbeaten on 59 overnight, fell for 65 while his partner Marlon Samuels made 23. The other wicket to fall was that of Shiv Chanderpaul (13).
Smith was the first wicket to fall when he picked out Gary Ballance at mid-on with off-spinner James Tredwell, as he tried to go over the top. Samuels, meanwhile, played a couple of crisp strokes down the ground, clearing the ropes at long-off with Tredwell and then punching the bowler to the cover boundary in the same over.
However, he lasted just 15 deliveries after Smith’s dismissal, edging a drive off seamer James Anderson to Tredwell at gully. England then claimed the prized wicket of veteran left-hander Chanderpaul, leg before to Root before lunch.
First innings century-maker Jermaine Blackwood (31) and Ramdin, unbeaten on four, carried the West Indies to lunch and then played positively on resumption as they added 34 for the sixth wicket.
Unbeaten on 19 at the interval, Blackwood made clear his intentions, twice going the aerial route for off-side boundaries after the break. However, he fell in ungainly fashion about half-hour after the break. Looking to attack, he needlessly charged seamer Chris Jordan and inside-edged a wild swing to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.
His dismissal brought Holder to the crease and he played with aplomb from the outset, mixing a solid defence with intelligent stroke play. Both he and Ramdin were unbeaten on 48 at tea with West Indies rallying on 268/6 and the pair completed their respective half-centuries afterwards.
With just over an hour left in the day’s play, Ramdin edged Anderson to captain Alistair Cook at first slip, to expose the tail and to add further tension to the contest.
The wicket also took Anderson to 384 wickets, breaking Ian Botham’s mark of 383 to become England’s all-time wicket-taker in Tests.
Roach survived an anxious moment when he had made two, given out caught down the leg-side off Anderson but was handed a reprieve by DRS.
Holder, meanwhile, slammed Tredwell to the point boundary to move into the 90s and reached three figures in the penultimate over of the day with two boundaries off the same bowler.
The second Test starts on April 21 at the National Cricket Stadium, St. George’s, Grenada.
Brief scores: England 399 and 333/7 declared drew with the West Indies 295 and 350/7 declared. (IANS)