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Jason Holder plots an easier path as West Indies do it the hard way against England

first_imgShare on Messenger England v West Indies 2017 features Read more West Indies cricket team Share on Pinterest Jason Holder was running late on Sunday morning, caught short, like everyone else, by the startling start to the day’s play. Jimmy Anderson dismissed Shai Hope with the first ball and Shane Dowrich with the second. Hope left with his head high and his bat raised, Dowrich went eyes down, like sad Charlie Brown. Then there was a short pause, probably while Holder was scrambling to get his pads on. By the time he made it to the middle, Anderson was waiting at the end of his run and England’s eager fielders were gathered close around, five slips, a gully, a short-leg, a short mid-on. The Test was alive again, the innings back in the balance.Holder has sounded a little sorry for himself in these last few days. “It’s not an easy job,” he said right after the first Test. “It’s not easy,” he said again just before the second, “But I enjoy it. I don’t think I would shy away from it, I don’t think I would ever give it up.” He said that he needed to “put my hand up”. And now, after all that glorious batting by Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite, the game was already beginning to slip away. West Indies had three wickets left and were only 71 runs in front. It was not enough, nothing like. And here came Anderson, bowling irresistibly well. Since you’re here… Sign up to the Spin – our weekly cricket round-up Share on Twitter Read more Sportblog Share on WhatsApp England cricket team Topics Cricket The ball was in the channel, outside off, just like the two before it. But where Hope and Dowrich had both been caught half forward Holder reached out with a giant stride and smothered the ball down towards gully. The crowd’s roars broke in a wash of sighs, then rose again as Holder flashed a panicky cut shot that almost had him caught behind, and was hit on his front pad playing round a straight delivery that would have just missed the stumps. England were bowling too well. They could sniff the wicket coming.It did not, though. Instead Holder counterattacked. In Stuart Broad’s fourth over he whipped a pull for one four, punched through cover for another and pushed a third to long-off. Holder is a handsome bat and so tall that when he plays shots like these he looks almost to have been made in the outsize proportions sculptors use when they are carving stone heroes. The West Indian lead rose up above a hundred. The moment had passed, the momentum Anderson had built in that first over had been met, matched and forced back by Holder’s bat.Holder eventually fell for 43, from 54 balls and with seven sweetly struck fours. He was caught trying to hit Chris Woakes down the ground. England were 146 behind at the time. Only the night before, Anderson had said they would need to be within 150 if they were to have a good chance of winning. Holder’s work, though, was only half done.After lunch the sun was out and the conditions as easy as they had been at any point yet. Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman set about clawing England back into the match. They were 29 without loss when Holder brought himself on. If he looks an uneasy fit batting No8, he can seem even more out of place bowling at first change. Here, though, his line was as tight as the fans in the Western Terrace who were, no joke, holding a drinking competition in which they took turns to neck pints they had poured into their own shoes. Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share via Email Holder started with a maiden over to Stoneman, all six balls back of a length outside off. On a pitch such as this the little he has was just enough. A wider delivery lured Cook into a loose shot outside off, as if he had been hypnotised into it by all the metronomic deliveries that had gone before. He was caught by Dowrich. At tea soon afterwards England were 68 for one and Holder’s figures were 9-4-10-1. He and his team hardly bothered with the break. They were out early so Holder could pull them into a huddle on the outfield and tell them to focus for the final session.Holder himself carried on bowling. He got Tom Westley, suckered into another wild drive at a wide ball, and dislocated Stoneman’s finger too. He finally came off after 12 overs, with two for 21. He came back later and was within an inch of having Joe Root lbw, less again of getting Dawid Malan too. His West Indies are a young and fragile team; they make mistakes, drop catches, concede misfields, miss run-outs and always seem as if they could be a wicket away from another sudden collapse. But he has held them together. It is not easy but he is doing it. … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we made the choice to keep our reporting open for all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. 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