Remember when it was raining a couple of days ago and any meaningful chance of a result seemed washed away too? Or, at 199-3 and 242-4 yesterday afternoon when the contest was drifting by the hour? Add â€˜how quickly things can changeâ€™ to the lists of reasons why our game, and this format, cannot be matched. As a consequence of eight wickets in the final session – even after the West Indies passed the follow-on mark – we still have a serious finish on our hands. What a treat.
When England resume their second innings at 37-2, neither of those numbers on the scoreboard will matter much to Joe Root – who is currently not out alongside his vice-captain (and first innings century-maker), Ben Stokes. Instead, theyâ€™ll only be taking note of the lead – currently 219 – and how many of the 98 overs remain in the match. A declaration loses them two of those, so we have a 96-over game today.
How to set it up? There are a few factors for Joe Root to consider. One, whether he gives the West Indies a sniff. Given England are one-nil down in this series, the skipper canâ€™t be sheepish about this. Yes, there are World Test Championship points that will be lost if the were to lose instead of draw, but forget about that – they want to regain the trophy. Risking a loss in order to increase the chance of winning is essential.
What about a second new ball? If England want one late on the final day – and why wouldnâ€™t they after seeing what happened with it yesterday afternoon – then they canâ€™t bat for too long this morning. Perhaps ten overs? That was Michael Vaughanâ€™s view last night. That allows 86 overs to bowl the Windies out, six of those with the second new ball if required and, whisper it, bad light doesnâ€™t intervene.
That being the case, assuming they can go at about a run a ball through those ten overs (remember, this isnâ€™t one-day cricket with fielders up; boundaries will be difficult to come by) then 270 feels like it could be Numberwang. Do the visitors then go and chase it? I mean, they might – and good on them if they do. But a draw is enough for them to retain the trophy, and not a bad outcome at all after two days in the dirt to begin this Test Match, conceding 469 in the first innings.
So for the second week in a row, we have plenty to look forward to on day five. And as always, Iâ€™m looking forward to your company throughout. Email, tweet, MSN Messenger? I have them all open. Hit me with your hottest of takes.