NORTH SOUND, Antigua, CMC – The unflappable Nkrumah Bonner once again proved he was worth his weight in gold, combining with all-rounder Jason Holder to nullify England’s attack and secure West Indies a draw on a compelling final day of the opening Test here yesterday.
Arriving at the crease half-hour before tea when West Indies lost both openers in successive overs to slip to 59 for two in search of an improbable 286, Man-of-the-Match Bonner followed up his first innings 123 with an unbeaten 38 to navigate a potentially precarious last session at the Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium.
Crucially, Bonner found an ally in Holder, who was unbeaten on 37 at the end, the pair putting on an invaluable 80 for the fifth wicket, as West Indies ended on 147 for four.
The 33-year-old, in only his 10th Test, batted time, consuming 138 balls in a shade under three hours at the crease, and striking eight fours.
“I like to bat at this venue. I think it’s a very good wicket. Obviously we wanted the win but we’re happy with the draw,” said Bonner, who batted just over 9-¼ hours in the first innings.
Holder followed the Jamaican example, facing 101 deliveries in nearly 2-½ hours and punching three fours, surviving a few anxious moments to frustrate England’s bowlers, and send the three-match series to Barbados next week still level at nil-all.
“Before the game [Bonner] told me [batting] 300 balls was his aim and to just see the determination he had was an example for us from the first innings,” captain Kraigg Brathwaite said afterwards.
“And today he came again and really showed his worth. He’s special, he has a special mindset and to be honest, he has set the example for us to follow.”
Earlier, fast bowler Alzarri Joseph claimed three for 78 and seamer Kemar Roach two for 53 as England, resuming the morning on 217 for one, declared their innings on 349 for six, 20 minutes before the interval.
Zak Crawley, starting the day on 117, made 121 while captain Joe Root, unbeaten overnight on 84, completed his 24th Test century with 109.
Dan Lawrence chipped in with a breezy 36-ball 37 as England gathered 132 runs and lost five wickets during the session.
With England hoping to push on for quick runs, Holder set them back when he bowled Crawley in the fourth over, ending a 201-run second wicket stand with Root.
However, Lawrence arrived to raise the tempo, lashing four fours and a six in a 70-run, third wicket stand with Root, who faced 204 balls in just under 5-¾ hours and counted half-dozen fours.
Joseph pulled things back when he had Lawrence taken at point by Veerasammy Permaul, triggering a slide that saw the touring side lose four wickets for 19 runs in quick time.
He bowled Root with a full length delivery and got Ben Foakes to play on for one, dismissals which came on either side of Roach’s 235th Test wicket – Ben Stokes held in the deep for 13 – drawing the Barbadian alongside the legendary Sir Garry Sobers at seventh on the all-time West Indies list of wicket-takers.
Chris Woakes (18 not out) and Jonny Bairstow (15 not out) added a busy 35 in an unbroken seventh-wicket partnership before the declaration came.
Having survived the four overs before lunch to be four without loss, Brathwaite (33) and John Campbell (22) blossomed afterwards to post 59 for the first wicket – their second half-century stand of the encounter.
England were beginning to fret when Brathwaite played back to one from seamer Stokes which kept low and was lbw, and Campbell followed in the very next over with no runs added, recklessly lofting a simple catch to mid-on off left-arm arm spinner Jack Leach (3-57).
On the stroke of tea, Shamarh Brooks edged Leach low to Crawley at slip, leaving West Indies tentatively perched on 65 for three at the interval.
Jermaine Blackwood’s inexplicable swipe at Leach in the second over after the resumption, resulting in a palpable lbw decision for two, allowed England to dream, with West Indies now tottering on 67 for four.
But Bonner and Holder erased all doubts over the result with calm heads and judicious stroke-play, in a resolute unbroken stand.
Bonner was reprieved on 25 when he was adjudged lbw to seamer Craig Overton only for DRS to show an inside edge while Holder suffered a let off on 13, offering no stroke to a delivery from Leach which was knocking leg-stump over but which England failed to review.