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Cricket news - WI overcome past troubles with resilience, patience

The morning session was all about resilience and patience with Brathwaite and Hope ensuring a wicket wasn't lost in the first hour.

The morning session was all about resilience and patience with Brathwaite and Hope ensuring a wicket wasn't lost in the first hour.

That West Indies have a wobbly top order, despite all the talent they possess, is evident in their performances over the last three years. In the 11 matches they have played overseas since January 2017, they have managed first innings totals in excess of 300 only three times. Only thrice have they managed to score totals of 200-250, while on five occasions they have been bowled out for less than 200 - three of those totals being less than 150.

Their average first innings total amounts to 235, mainly due to their top-order struggles. The team has lost five wickets before even reaching 100 in six of the 11 first-innings since January 2017, with the top five's combined 1269 runs coming at an average of 18.39. But skipper Jason Holder wasn't really concerned. While admitting that the batsmen "haven't lived up to the expectations" he said before the series: "how we get them, I don't really care. All I want is that the bowlers have something to work with."

Holder's own bowling performance (a six-wicket haul to skittle England out for 204) might have served as a catalyst, for what followed was a resolute batting show from West Indies - top and middle-order batsmen all contributing - that could potentially pave way for some rewarding times for the visitors.

The morning session was all about resilience, patience and keeping the England pacers at bay, with Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope ensuring that a wicket wasn't lost in the first hour. Hope's contribution in the second-wicket stand of 59 was only 16 but he batted in excess of 10 overs for that, blunting the England attack in the process. Brathwaite went on to bring up a 113-ball half-century - his first fifty in 22 innings - but fell shortly before Lunch.

Two more wickets followed after the break, with West Indies at 186 for 5, raising the possibility of a familiar collapse. But this was a Caribbean team wrought with determination. And it was this quality that was on display throughout the day's play. They managed 102 runs in the first session for the loss of Brathwaite and Hope. Shamarh Brooks and Jermaine Blackwood fell in the second session but West Indies added 76 more runs thanks to Roston Chase's vigil and Shane Dowrich's confident stroke-making, giving them a handy 31-run lead at Tea.

Over the first two sessions, what stood out was the conviction shown by the West Indian batsmen, be it defence or offence. Brathwaite and Hope set the tone with their watchful approach, with the former being the pillar in partnerships of 43, 59 and 38 for the first three wickets. Chase then took over the defender's role while Brooks and Dowrich batted with a lot of freedom in what seemed like a strategic goal of defence and attack to help West Indies towards supremacy in the game.

To be fair, West Indies, unlike England, did have the advantage of batting in brighter conditions and the Caribbean side also had the depth in their side and a lower order quite capable of commendable fightbacks. Nos. 6 to 11 have scored 1900 runs from January 2017 until this Test, at an average of 21.40. But, as Holder had said, it didn't matter where the runs came from as long as they came. And they did.

"It was challenging throughout. All the bowlers put in a really good effort. The guys were quite aggressive. It was challenging but it was (also) a good batting pitch," was how Brathwaite described the couple of sessions he spent in the middle batting. "I obviously can't compare it to a hundred. I think England bowled really well and it was challenging. Dowrich and myself did a good job for the team. This is a low-scoring game and tomorrow will be key. I still think it's a decent pitch. When guys get runs can be scored."

England bowlers had the second new ball in hand in the final session but weren't as accurate as they were in the previous sessions. This meant that run-scoring became slightly easier, with the Chase-Dowrich pair finding the boundary ropes frequently. England hit back - Anderson accounting for Chase to end an 81-run partnership, while Stokes sent back his counterpart Holder cheaply. England kept chipping away but the run-scoring did not stop as West Indies finished with a 114-run lead, with Dowrich's 61 being a key contribution.

"It was very important for us to get a 100-run lead. It put us in a decent position. We've still got to work hard tomorrow, especially the first session will be very crucial for us. The batsmen did a decent job to get a lead and it's important to kick on from here," said Brathwaite.

It wasn't a really big lead, but it wasn't a small one either as the cushion of the extra runs carries a lot of weight. England ended the day without losing any wicket but they still have a fair distance to cover if they are to snatch away the advantage that West Indies have at the moment, thanks to their collective batting show.

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