West Indies and the weather stand between England and victory in the second Test
Forecast of rain in Manchester could cost Root's men chance of levelling series
Ben Stokes off the field because of indigestion. The umpires having to clean the ball with an antiseptic wipe because Dom Sibley absent-mindedly got saliva on it.
Stokes and Jos Buttler opening the batting together in a Test match. And Jofra Archer going for a run in full hazmat.
These continue to be weird times for the world.
For all the uncertainty, though, some things remain the same. Rain, as ever, will throw a spanner in the works when it comes to the cricket in Manchester.
Having been deprived one full day of this second lockdown Test match – after the full programme on Saturday was rained off – England are now up against it in their bid to regain the Wisden Trophy.
They arrived at Old Trafford 1-0 down and needing victory to have a chance of winning the three-match series. They could not have done much more to bring it about so far.
After their first innings of 469-9 declared, they bowled West Indies out for 287 in reply. By the close on Day 4 they had reached 37 for two, which gave them a lead of 219 ahead of the final day.
Before play, Archer had been given permission to break his five-day, hotel-room quarantine to go for a run, so long as he wore PPE while doing so.
Clearly the mood towards the fast-bowler, who erred by breaking bio-security rules in returning home between Test matches, is thawing.
By the afternoon he was able to train on the net area, first with mask and gloves, and then practice bowling without either – but using a box of balls that only he was permitted to touch.
It can only be speculated quite how much England have missed his bowling after he was stood down for this Test.
But those who were left battled manfully to put England into a position to push for an unlikely win.
The returning duo of Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes took three wickets each, and Sam Curran took two crucial ones as well.
Thanks to half-centuries by Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks and Roston Chase, the tourists did cobble together enough to save the follow-on, but still faced a deficit of 182 on first innings.
Just before their innings had been wrapped up, Stokes had wandered off the field rubbing his chest in apparent discomfort.
It turned out his ailment was nothing more concerning than indigestion, and he was fit enough to go out to bat first with Buttler, as England sought out quick runs to given themselves enough time to bowl West Indies out on the final day.
That plan was scotched when Buttler dragged on for a duck from Kemar Roach, who dismissed Zak Crawley shortly after, too.
It means that Stokes and Joe Root will be at the crease together when play starts on the final day. Expect fireworks to ensue.
Published: July 19, 2020 10:22 PM