Fourth Test, Barbados (day one, stumps):
West Indies v England 301-3
Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook forged England's highest opening stand against West Indies as the tourists gained the upper hand in the fourth Test.
Strauss (142) was dropped on 58 but made an eye-catching 16th Test century as he and Cook (94) put on 229.
But West Indies fought hard and took the morale-boosting wickets of Strauss, Cook and Owais Shah (7) after tea.
Kevin Pietersen was then joined by Paul Collingwood and the pair led England to 301-3 at stumps on day one in Barbados.
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"An excellent day's play, especially for England. A flat pitch, few troubles for the batsmen, and then the Windies come out after tea with a lovely spell. England still very much on top, but they will want to push on from here tomorrow, no doubt."
Geoff Boycott on TMS
2110 - England 301-3 - STUMPS
Daren Powell has the final over of the day but it shows few teeth to Kevin Pietersen, the number four grabbing a couple with a flick to midwicket and otherwise straight-batting away the rest of the over. A thoroughly entertaining day, that, and England well and truly on top with plenty - arguably too much - batting to come. I'll be back tomorrow, folks, so I will see you then, you big bunch of legends.
In the mean time, feast your eyes on Jonathan Stevenson's sparkling football commentary, it's golden.
Live - Thursday's football
2107 - England 299-3
Fidel Edwards looks to bamboozle Pietersen with a yorker but it's too full and the former England skipper clips it away for three through midwicket. A single follows and that's a frustrated Fidel Edwards done for the day.
2101 - England 295-3
Daren 'the Power' Powell returns to the attack... with a delivery so short and wide Pietersen has time to tuck a napkin in his collar before tonking it through the covers for a simple four. Three singles follow and there are two overs left in the day's play - England have scored 29 runs off the last three overs so they'll be looking at about 315-3 by stumps at that rate.
"Hi Sam - Is cricket the only sport where players can, and do, routinely yawn during the action?"
Rachel Tyrrell, Lincoln
(Answers on a postcard - or preferably email, text or 606 - please)
2055 - England 288-3
Short-ball attack seems to be the order of the day for the Windies and it almost bears fruit. Moments after Kevin Pietersen expertly angles the ball through the off side, he top-edges a ferocious bouncer high into the Barbadian sky - only for Jerome Taylor to spill a tricky chance dashing in from the boundary edge. Fidel Edwards responds with a bouncer so short and off-target it goes for five wides and Dinesh Ramdin then spills the next ball for another four byes. Edwards looks like someone's lined all his cricket gear with Ralgex and Colly has to take evasive action to avoid a fierce bouncer. That's 15 - and more aggression than a New Zealand Haka - from an exciting, adrenalin-pumped over.
"They've taken the new ball and bowled rubbish. Hardly anything in the right area."
Geoff Boycott on TMS
2048 - England 273-3
Jerome Taylor picks up where Fidel Edwards left off and after Collingwood slaps him square of the wicket for a couple, Taylor drops in a tame half-tracker that the Ginga Ninja turns away on the pull for a boundary. Not quite what Gayle had in mind, this.
2044 - England 266-3
Fidel Edwards will get first use of the new ball but it is not good, the paceman spraying it all over the place like a kid fighting with a garden hose. Both Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood are able to leave the majority of the over well alone, before the latter punts a half volley down the ground for a beautiful four - the first boundary for 60 balls. James Anderson is padded up on the balcony as nightwatchman in case this new conker talks for the Windies. Phew.
2038 - England 260-3
A huge cheer erupts from the England fans as Kevin Pietersen breaks the shackles... with a single. Just that from the over, though, and I must admit I'm stunned - an over after Sulieman Benn has Collingwood in all sorts of bother with turn and bounce, Chris Gayle takes the new ball. Hhmm. Six overs to go tonight and the Windies skipper will be hoping for some Fidel Edwards magic.
"If Michael Vaughan gets a hundred early season, he'll be in at number three for the Ashes. But I agree that for now KP should be told to bat there - Shah and Bell are not number 3s."
Davemanunited on 606
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"Oh good, the ball is turning now. It's a good job England went for two spinners in a five-man bowling attack. Oh no, that's right, no they didn't. Shame."
Geoff Boycott on TMS
2033 - England 259-3
Well, that's why Gayle is sticking with the old ball - Benn getting one to turn sharply and bounce and Paul Collingwood is ever so fortunate not to edge it. An excellent over comes to an end with Collingwood and Pietersen without a run in 4.1 overs and the game rather delightfully placed.
2030 - England 259-3
Erm, nope. Chris Gayle calls on Jerome Taylor and it looks for all the world he will take the new ball, but instead the Windies paceman bowls down six probing deliveries with the old ball and a maiden allows Sulieman Benn to have another go at tweaking this old nut. It may look like it's been used as a dog toy, but Benn is definitely getting something out of the cherry.
2025 - England 259-3
Sulieman Benn does indeed get another over, but Paul Collingwood is comfortable enough in fending it away and it's a maiden. I reckon that'll be it with this old ball now...
2023 - England 259-3
Kevin Pietersen remains watchful as Brendan Nash continues and it's a maiden. The new ball is now due, but will Sulieman Benn get another over after accounting for Shah...?
"Great work from the Windies on the fight back this, because at tea this looked a 600-700, erm, thousand-type total!"
Tony Cozier on TMS
"The collapse is on! Come on the Windies!"
red_and_white4life on 606
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2017 - WICKET! Shah c Smith b Benn 7, England 259-3
Casual, very casual from Owais Shah, the number three stepping back and swiping at an innocuous Sulieman Benn delivery and succeeding only in edging it high to Devon Smith at slip. Oh no, credit where it's due, the replays show that ball had a bit of turn and plenty of bounce, so fair play to the spinner there. Paul Collingwood comes to the crease with the new ball six deliveries away now.
2015 - England 259-2
This is a very good effort from Brendan Nash, the middle-pacer keeping the run-rate down and getting through enough overs to ensure the Windies can have a go at Shah and Pietersen tonight with a new ball. Just two from that over.
"I read L'etranger in three hours on a boat trip up the Rhine when I was 14. Surely you've read something harder?"
Alex in Prague via the TMS inbox
"RE 1955: I've just finished studying Camus' 'L'etranger' as part of my French A-level course, and I can honestly say I would rather watch England bat out maidens any day!"
Will, Canterbury via the TMS inbox
2012 - England 257-2
Ho hum... Sulieman Benn keeps things relatively tight but Owais Shah and Kevin Pietersen refuse to chance their arm at any of the deliveries. The new ball is due in three overs, mind, so we have something to look forward to at any rate.
2009 - England 256-2
Another good, tight over from Brendan Nash yields just the single and this England pair look content to play out today unscathed at the moment. They have 250 on the board and they are shutting up shop. Not very ambitious, that. A bit like Whitney Houston turning up at a karaoke night and setting her sights on third place.
"Do you think Owais gets on the Red Bull before he bats? The man just does not stop moving at the crease! Clearly a 'don't let him near the orange Smartie' type of child."
Mike, London via text on 81111
"This may be a flat wicket but this isn't the easiest situation for these two - they will have been pacing around the dressing room all day with Cook and Strauss in and settled, and now they have to get their eye in and get going."
Sir Viv Richards on TMS
2002 - England 255-2
Sulieman Benn will turn his arm over, now, and Owais Shah decides enough is enough, stepping down the wicket and plonking the spinner back over his head for a couple-of-bounces four.
""An Albert Camus novel"? Now you're just showing off!"
John, Portsmouth via the TMS inbox
(I'm glad someone noticed...)
1959 - England 250-2
Brendan Nash returns to the attack and Owais Shah, who is fast getting himself a reputation as a rather shoddy runner, nearly succumbs again when he ambles through a second run only for the throw from the outfield to fall well wide of the stumps. KP than flails unconvincingly at a wide Nash one, the ball beating the outside of the bat, and England are edging alone at a snail's pace. The 250 is up.
1955 - England 247-2
Powell continues and it's just the single for Kevin Pietersen. For the England batsmen, this is harder going than an Albert Camus novel right now. I'm not sure where this bowling effort has come from really after four hours of dross my mum would kick herself over earlier today.
1951 - England 246-2
Since tea, England have faced nine overs and added 25 runs for the loss of two wickets - excellent comeback this from the Windies. It's no Take That return yet, more of a Boyzone style sold-out-tour but no hit singles effort. But that could all change, of course... Owais Shah shows Jerome Taylor all the respect of a kid asking for his ball back from a gruff elderly neighbour and it's a maiden.
1945 - England 246-2
What England fans the world over want now is a KP masterclass - and the mercurial batsman gets himself going with a beautiful on-drive down the ground for four. Many a folk were predicting before the series began that Pietersen would end as England's top run-scorer - well he has some work to do now after Strauss's heroics... Mr Jessica Liberty X, it's over to you.
"I have a sinking feeling again, this could be a collapse of epic proportions, even by England's recent standards... if it happens again I am going to have to go for a long, long, lay down."
limousinplouc on 606
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1935 - WICKET! Cook c Hinds b Taylor 94, England 241-2
Oh come on, that's just silly. Alastair Cook's compulsive hooking disorder finally proves his undoing and Jerome Taylor goes ballistic as the Essex left-hander mis-times straight to Ryan Hinds at midwicket. Cook trudges from the field looking like a man who has just wasted a glorious chance to hit his first century in two years. Most likely because that's exactly what he's done. Kevin Pietersen gets off the mark with an inside-edge.
1934 - England 241-1
Suddenly Daren Powell is causing more problems than a city banker setting his own bonus structure... the ball is swinging and Powell is extracting decent bounce from the pitch at good pace. Owais Shah could be forgiven for cursing the timing of his arrival at the crease, but he survives and it's a maiden.
"I have never noticed a surfeit of tigers on the Serengeti stalking the wildebeest....lions yes, tigers strangely not."
Barry, Tiger Free France, via the TMS inbox
(Ah, my mistake. Great use of 'surfeit' as well. Top marks all round)
1930 - England 241-1
Deary me, Alastair Cook is doing his level best to keep the Windies bowlers interested here but again the slip placings are all out of whack and England escape. He goes for a flashy drive outside off-stump but only manages to thick edge the ball through an inexplicable gap between keeper and first slip for four - Gayle was at about 2nd/3rd slip there. Jerome Taylor responds with a bouncer and the Essex opener spanks the pyjamas off it on the pull and it crashes to the boundary. Cook moves on to 94...
1926 - England 233-1
Escape-tastic! Shah pinches a single and Cook, who has yet to look at his fluid best post-tea, hooks at a Powell bouncer, top-edging the ball so high into the sky it comes down with snow on it. It looks out for all the money in the world, but Brendan Nash and Sulieman Benn leave it for each other and it falls between the two. Powell does his best impression of the Tasmanian Devil but, other than bring a sheepish look from Benn, it does little good.
1920 - England 231-1
Jerome Taylor probes away but Owais Shah keeps his counsel and is clearly giving himself a look at this featherbed of a pitch before tonking the hosts to all parts. A single off that over while Cook, 15 shy of his first century since December 2007, waits at the other end like a hungry tiger stalking a pack of wildebeest. Erm, sort of.
"That is why people are frustrated with Powell, ordinary all day and then he bowls that."
Pickles91 on 606
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1910 - WICKET! Strauss b Powell 142, England 229-1
Well, I've been saying it all day, but Daren Powell really is a class bowler (ahem). An absolutely terrific yorker from the paceman beats Andrew Strauss all ends up and Powell rips out middle and off with a beauty of a delivery. That brings Owais Shah to the crease and the Middlesex man almost visibly licking his lips. A leg bye ends the over.
1908 - England 229-0
Brendan Nash will share the cherry this side of tea and his medium-pacers are deceptively tricky to get away. It's accurate enough fare from the Australian-born all-rounder with just a single from his six deliveries, but Strauss and Cook shouldn't lose much sleep over him I wouldn't think...
1906 - England 228-0
I guess we'll have 5-10 minutes of consolidation from these two and then back to open-your-shoulders batting... or maybe not. Alastair Cook pulls away at a short one but only gets a single with the man on the boundary, and Andrew Strauss then back-cuts a doozy of a shot down to third man for four. The bowler? Daren Powell, who I can only assume has some dirt on Chris Gayle because otherwise I can't see why he's still turning his arm over, so ineffective has he been today.
"As Strauss and Cook come out to bat, I'll say this to them - if you're not up and above 320 by the end of the day, you've not done yourselves justice. You've got the bowlers in your pocket and the wicket's a beauty, make the most of it."
Geoff Boycott on TMS
1841 - England 221-0 - TEA
Brendan Nash will have the last over before tea as Gayle looks to get to the break as quickly as possible to regroup and a Strauss tickle down leg for two aside, it's a tidy enough over... and he very nearly gets the opener out with the last ball before the break! Strauss flays at a wide one and inside-edges it back onto his pads and away from the stumps. Close. Erm, I reckon England are on top, what say you?
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"Alastair Cook looks to me in the last couple of overs just like a man who has realised he is close to that all elusive century and is trying desperately not to give it away."
Christopher Martin-Jenkins on TMS
1836 - England 219-0
You know you're in a sticky patch when the man you turn to in a hole is... Daren Powell. The man would struggle to rescue apples from a fruit bowl in his current form. Still, a defensive over sees Cook leave well alone and it is a maiden.
"RE 1818 - English batsman and flowing runs? Mike Gatting and that prawn curry in India circa mid '80s springs to mind."
TC, in Pimlico via text on 81111
1831 - England 219-0
Three singles off another Chris Gayle over and this really is desperate captaincy if you ask me. Do something different man! An 8-2 split field, a full-on bounce attack, jelly beans... anything!
1828 - England 216-0
Ooh I like that, Ryan Hinds drifts one in far too short and wide and Strauss cracks it away for four, before the opener dabs down to third man for a couple more. This is now England's best opening stand against the West Indies anywhere, beating Reg Simpson and Cyril Washbrook's stand of 212 in 1950. But then you knew that already didn't you?
1825 - England 208-0
A single off that Gayle over and England are now one run short of their best opening stand in the West Indies - Dennis Amiss and Geoff Boycott got 209 in 1974.
1823 - England 207-0
No spin, little bounce, and only the odd moment of variation from Hinds and Gayle make cricket a batsman's game. All right, it's not the most famous of sayings, but it does at least apply exactly to the scenario in Barbados. Cook sweeps uppishly for a couple just short of the fielder to briefly stir the locals from their slumber, but three off the over ensure they tuck their chins in and nod back off.
1820 - England 204-0
With 20 minutes to go until tea another couple of singles see Strauss and Cook push England's score to 204-0 with the absolute minimum of fuss.
1818 - England 202-0
Four singles off that Ryan Hinds over and that's England's 200 - as Jonathan Agnew says on TMS, runs are just haemorrhaging at the Kensington Oval. Which sounds rather brutal, if not messy, but I know what he means.
"To spell one cartoon character wrong is bad enough, but two (Fievel and Wile E Coyote) in quick succession? Not good."
Tim, who should probably get out more, via the TMS inbox
1815 - England 198-0
Cook grabs a couple to leg, but while Gayle is keeping things tight he is showing absolutely zero potential of getting a wicket here.
1812 - England 196-0
Ryan Hinds gets his first bowl of the day and he will bowl in tandem with Gayle - news as welcome to me as someone telling me my lottery numbers have come up... but I didn't get a ticket. Three singles off the over.
1810 - England 193-0
A maiden from Gayle, who I reckon is on some sort of dare to see how many two-minute overs he can bowl in a day's play. The nuisance that he is.
1808 - England 193-0
Alastair Cook is starting to get in on the act, now, and he is taking up Edwards's short-ball challenge with impressive commitment. It's not quite time-the-pants-off-it stuff, though, with Cook following a lovely pull around the corner for four with one top-edged down to fine leg for another. A decent contest between the two, but Cook is well ahead on points.
1803 - England 184-0
Another blink-and-you-miss-it over from Gayle and Strauss grabs a single. No worries about over-rate today, then.
"The groundsman claimed this pitch was going to be fast and bouncey - it's not. But then I've never heard a groundsman say his pitch was going to be slow and low..."
Tony Cozier on TMS
"I'll wager we have supermodels the world over very worried now. If the cricketing community won't date them, then who will?!"
James, gap-yearing in California, via the TMS inbox
1801 - England 183-0
Bless ol' Fidel Edwards - he keeps running in, he keeps banging the ball in, but he's enjoying all the luck of Wily Coyote who has just received a new shipment of ACME products. Alastair Cook lashes at a well directed bouncer but where does it go? Up and over the keeper's head and away for four, of course. Cook then pulls through midwicket and England continue to pile on the runs.
"Good to see Stewart in NJ (1747) embracing all aspects of American life, including not doing irony."
Ian, an Englishman firmly based in London via the TMS inbox
1755 - England 176-0
A single apiece from Cook and Strauss off another Gayle over edge England towards 200 but, more frustratingly, TV crowd shots show a bunch of pink Englishmen larking about in the pool on the boundary edge drinking beer and generally having the time of their lives. Is that really what you need to see when you're stuck in the office?
"The problem with Strauss bringing up his hundred with a six, though, is now KP will want to hit a 12 to bring up his century..."
duckmachine on 606
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1753 - England 174-0
Alastair Cook, back in the "nervous 50s", has gone into his shell with Strauss sending the ball to all parts up the other end and after five watchful deliveries, mis-times a pull that fortunately falls nowhere near a fielder and he grabs a single.
1747 - England 173-0
Andrew Strauss has never looked in better form in his entire career, if you ask me, and two blips aside before lunch he is tonking the Windies bowlers to all parts. He batters another four off that Gayle over, swept over midwicket, and all the while Alastair Cook looks on from the other end with an admiring smirk.
"I hope Gary Ramm is joking (1737). To call a man a disgrace who is putting a magnificent innings is unbelievable! To whine about one shot (which for all we know could have been the best option and not gambling) is like dating a supermodel and whining she has a pimple! Go on Straussy lad!"
Stewart (Englishman reading in NJ, USA) via the TMS inbox
(I can confidently say he was joking, mate. Or at least I hope he was. That said, refusing to date supermodels with pimples is one of my iron-clad rules in life which I absolutely will not budge from)
"If the England selectors had followed the selection advice on 606 over the years, none of the England squad would still be playing."
Cricketing_stargazer getting back involved in today's selection debate on 606
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1743 - England 169-0
Fidel Edwards, who always reminds me of the mouse Fivel in that "An American Tail" film, comes on to replace Sulieman Benn but even at his pace Cook and Strauss cope comfortably and three simple runs are taken from yet another unalarming over.
1737 - England 166-0
Chris Gayle wheels away with all the enthusiasm of a 14-year-old who has been ordered to complete his maths homework, and England are happy enough to pinch a single from a quiet over.
"Strauss is a disgrace, smashing the ball for six to get his hundred. Not exactly a captain's way to do things, I'm appalled by his attitude!"
Gary Ramm via the TMS inbox
"A good effort, he played beautifully. His only false shot was the nick [on 58]. He has looked every inch quality."
Geoffrey Boycott on TMS
1734 - England 165-0
That's how you bring up a hundred son! Andrew Strauss, in a move more uncharacteristic than Flintoff turning down a beer in the bar after a match, goes down one one knee and brings up his 16th Test hundred with a huge slog sweep over midwicket for a maximum. Ber-limey. That also takes him past 4,500 Test runs as well, by the way. The umpires respond by changing the ball - unless it's for a grenade I don't that's going to help the Windies much - and three singles see out the rest of Sulieman Benn's over.
1729 - England 155-0
Gayle continues and Strauss drives a couple into the covers, before sweeping another brace two deliveries later. A prod to the leg side takes him on to 99 and Alastair Cook then calls him through for a quick single to make it six off the over.
1726 - England 149-0
Ooh - a bye! Moments after Andrew Strauss plays the most delightful of late cuts to Sulieman Benn away for four, Dinesh Ramdin misses one behind the stumps and that's our first extra ladies and gentlemen. Hoorah.
1723 - England 143-0
Chris Gayle comes on, a couple of singles are dashed, and it really is utterly effortless out there for the tourists. Approximately 817,257 of you have enquired just how extraordinary it is for England to be on 143-0 without the benefit of a single extra - I must confess, it is at moments like this in particular we all dearly miss our beloved Beaders, but rest assured I have my finest (for finest, read: the one bloke who volunteered to chase it up) on that one.
"Lee's notion of fake sports actions (1705) raises an interesting area of gerontological study. When I was young I used to fake glorious cover drives, then it became tickles to leg, and then faint edges to the keeper. Disturbingly, I now find myself slowly departing the kitchen pretending I've just been run out without facing a ball."
Paul in Lancs via the TMS inbox
1720 - England 141-0
Dum de dum... an air of quiet in the Kensington Oval as England fans, content in the knowledge this opening pair are piling on the runs, get stuck into some local rum and jerk chicken, while the local Windies fans sob quietly into their rice and peas. A couple of easy-as-you-like runs from Benn's over.
1718 - England 139-0
Jerome Taylor - warned for running down the pitch by Aleem Dar - continues, but still Strauss and Cook pick the gaps and wait for the bad ball. The England skipper nudges the only runs of the over to the leg side, safe in the knowledge that sooner or later one of the Windies bowlers will throw down a delivery gift-wrapped and pinched from under the Christmas tree.
"Tiny Tim Ambrose would definitely be a chimney sweep."
Matthew G via the TMS inbox
"Freddy would be manning the dodgems at a fairground. Spinning the girls double quick whilst furtively swigging a flagon of cider."
Will from Edinburgh via the TMS inbox
"Graham Swann would be a red coat at Butlins, belting out Karaoke numbers every Friday night."
Matt, London via the TMS inbox
1711 - England 137-0
And that's Alastair Cook's 19th Test half century as he dabs down to third man - can he, for the first time in 24 (I think?) innings, go on and get a much needed century? He and Strauss pinch another couple of singles to see out Sulieman Benn's return over.
"Strauss reminds me a bit of Justin Langer, who started his career as a tight, defensive opener but then opened up later in his career to display his talent all round the wicket. He really is a rejuvanated player right now."
Sir Viv Richards on TMS
1710 - England 133-0
Strauss really does look in delightful touch out there at the Kensington Oval, and he underlines the fact he has the Windies attack on toast at the moment by lacing Jerome Taylor down the ground for a blink-and-you-miss-it boundary. This opening duo couldn't be more comfortable if they were wrapped in a hot blanket, sat on the sofa in front of a roaring fire at Christmas. Their only danger right now is complacency, you feel.
1705 - England 128-0
Take That and Party from Andrew Strauss as he buckaroos a beauty of a pull shot off Powell and it crosses the boundary rope before you can say "that's dross bowling that". Alastair Cook gets in on the action with a dreamy drive down the ground that is only prevented from going for four by a fine dive and stop from long-off.
"Paul Collingwood would be a games teacher, always wearing tracksuit bottoms, collar up and forever practicing his fake tennis "serve" whilst walking around the school."
Lee S via the TMS inbox
"Steve Harmison would grow a 'tache and be a warehouse supervisor - one of those that you never see during the week and yet unconfirmed reports have him working 12 hours @ double time every Saturday and Sunday. He earns a six-figure sum easily."
Leon in Yorkshire via the TMS inbox
1700 - England 120-0
England content to wait for the bad ball here and when it comes in this Jerome Taylor over, Strauss makes no mistake, rolling the wrists and punting it through the covers for three. Jubbly.
1656 - England 117-0
A circumspect over from Alastair Cook is interrupted somewhat by a flashing drive outside off stump that sees the left hander thick-edge up and over the slip cordon and away for four. A loose stroke to a loose delivery, but he gets away with it and Cook moves on to 42 not out.
"I reckon KP would be a stripper... or is that just wishful thinking?"
Sophie, Cambridge via text on 81111
"I just heard Geoff Boycott on Five Live saying that Andrew Strauss should make "a million" on this pitch. He said Strauss should make 1,000,000 runs. Eat your heart out Brian Charles Lara."
Ted via the TMS inbox
1652 - England 113-0
Jerome Taylor immediately commands respect on his return to the attack and just a single, dabbed into the covers by Alastair Cook, comes from a tight over.
1646 - England 112-0
Surprisingly, Daren 'help yourself' Powell gets the first over after lunch, but he clearly hasn't had his Ready Brek because yet another half-tracker is leapt upon by Strauss like a student on a mate's half-smoked cigarette and dispatched away to the boundary on the pull. As you were England...
"I think KP would work in a high street fashion retailers as he's the sort of ear-ring wearing, flashy wide boy with a big knot in his tie that tends to work there."
Andy in Manchester via the TMS inbox
"I think Ian Bell would be a life guard at a leisure centre. He'd also run the roller disco."
Chris Day, Newton Abbot
"Matt Prior would be a jolly, rosy-cheeked butcher."
David, London via the TMS inbox
"Stuart Broad would be definitely doing something cool like Surf instructing in Bondi."
Richard Giles via the TMS inbox
"Sidebottom looks like one of life's perpetual students."
Martin, Sunderland via the TMS inbox
1639: Apparently my request not to send any emails during the lunch break was misinterpreted as a request to send more emails in an hour than have been received this side of 2003 by the entire TMS crew. Thanks for that. As I trawl through them one by one, above are a selection of 'alternative careers' for the England boys... play to restart in Barbados in one minute.
"A missed sneeze is much worse than an interupted yawn (Ali 1554); if someone blows in your face just when you're about to sneeze the sneeze never materialises (which is incredibly frustrating) - for some reason my wife always finds it hilarious and is now teaching my kids..."
Rob Webber via the TMS inbox
"I have come to the conclusion that if Andrew Strauss wasn't a cricketer he would definitely be an accountant; he's got a sensible haircut, and looks like the kind of man who would be able to tell you how to screw over the taxman. Based on the same irrational judgements, Jimmy Anderson would probably be a shoddy electrician... I should probably get on with some work."
Rich M, Edinburgh via the TMS inbox
(Now that's a post-lunch topic for discussion if ever there was one...)
"That's a wonderful start on what looks to be a wonderful pitch. England have scored at a good rate, very positively led by Strauss."
Jonathan Agnew via the TMS inbox
1602 - England 108-0 - LUNCH
Alastair Cook refuses to shut up shop to Sulieman Benn's final over before lunch, the left-hander launching himself into one that is over-pitched and battering it through the covers for a glorious four. A suitable end to an utterly dominant morning's work from England. I'm off to grab some lunch so STOP THE EMAILS FOR 40 MINUTES PLEASE!
"Re 1344: Call me a traditionalist but I firmly believe that Mr Muscle should be something reminiscent of former Carry On star Charles Hawtrey i.e. a weedy wimp who looks like hed struggle to take the top off a ketchup bottle I remember Birdseye trying to change Captain Birdseye from an Uncle Albert look-a-like to some rugged looking chap it failed and I firmly believe that Mr Muscle will be a weedy wimp again within the near future."
Thomas Moffatt, Isle of Man via the TMS inbox
1559 - England 104-0
Huzzah. A mere 23 balls into his spell and Gayle finally yields runs - and it's a beauty from Andrew Strauss, the England skipper slashing away for four, the ball racing over the outfield to beat Brendan Nash's desperate dive. We'll have another over before lunch, though.
1557 - England 100-0
Huge cheers around the Kensington Oval as Strauss clips a Sulieman Benn full toss off his pads and away for three to bring up England's 100 off 167 balls. This is a very impressive start from the tourists... two questions remain: Can they see it through to a big total and can they then take 20 wickets?
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1554 - England 96-0
Three overs from Gayle, three maidens. Still, as my colleague sat next to me points out, shame about that dropped catch wasn't it?
"On the subject of annoying things - even more annoying than reading over people's shoulders and saying Pin number is someone poking their finger in your mouth when you yawn and thus spoiling one of life's simplest pleasures... Having said that I do do this to my girlfriend all the time and i still find it amusing... Apologies Louise!"
Ali via the TMS inbox
1552 - England 96-0
With lunch approaching fast, the West Indies appear keen to get as many deliveries in as possible and Sulieman Benn races through his over with turning a single to the leg side for the only scoring shot.
1550 - England 95-0
I've said it before and I'll say it again - spin from both ends is a text commentator's nightmare. Gayle bowls down another maiden but it's still easy peasy lemon squeezy for the tourists. By the way, an interesting fact for you - West Indian legend Everton Weekes only hit one six in his entire career, apparently - and Cook has just doubled that on the great man's birthday. Well, I say interesting, but...
1548 - England 95-0
Hold the front page - Alastair Cook, who thus far has been overshadowed by his skipper, goes down on one knee and brutalises a slog-sweep off Sulieman Benn up and over midwicket for only his second ever Test six. Yes, you read that right, Cook hit a maximum. Blimey. Will wonders ever cease? Next Elvis will return, Amy Winehouse will become a cover girl for Reader's Digest and Kevin Pietersen will reduce the number of mirrors in his house to 3,125.
1546 - England 87-0
No joy for Gayle as he goes about seeking redemption... but it is accurate enough and Alastair Cook plays out a maiden.
1543 - England 87-0
Decent again from Benn, a couple of singles yielded in that over. Chris Gayle is going to give himself the chance to reprieve himself by bringing himself on to bowl...
1541 - England 85-0
Dropped again! Fidel Edwards gets Andrew Strauss driving at a wide one, the opener offers a regulation catch to Chris Gayle at slip, but the Windies skipper spills it falling to his right. Edwards's look towards his captain makes Benn's at Devon Smith in the previous over look like a doe-eyed puppy begging for food. Strauss shrugs it off and clips the seamer away for three through midwicket. Ouch.
"Much more annoying than anything mentioned so far is people who say "haitch" instead of "aitch" and also "PIN number". It's not a PIN number, what do they think the 'N' stands for?!? We don't say TMS Special do we!?!"
Steve "the grammar expert" in Euston via the TMS inbox
1535 - England 81-0
Oh dear - moments after Andrew Strauss goes down on one knee and spanks Sulieman Benn to the square boundary for four, bringing up his 15th Test 50 in doing so, the spinner gains a thick edge with one that turned a touch, only for Devon Smith to be standing far too wide at first slip and the ball rolls away for four. To add insult to injury, Strauss steps down the pitch next ball and launches Benn over mid-on for a one-bounce four. Benn looks at Devon Smith like he has just broken into his house at Christmas and spat on his kids.
"RE 1412: When I read the Metro on the train and the guy next to me starts reading over my shoulder, I quickly flick to the lonely hearts column. Then when I catch him looking at the paper I give him a sympathetic look..."
Mick, Birmingham via the TMS inbox
1531 - England 68-0
Fidel Edwards - he's a terrier of a cricketer isn't he? - continues to bend his back, doing his best to make the most of the pace and bounce in this pitch but after yielding just a single from an aggressive first five deliveries, he strays onto Strauss's pads and the opener flicks it away comfortably for four down the leg side. The story of the Windies' morning perhaps.
1527 - England 63-0
Sulieman Benn comes into the attack - not before time - and it's a nice mix from the spinner, varying his pace and line well as he bowls out a maiden. Only the final delivery showed any hint of gripping the surface, but an encouraging start nonetheless from the big man.
1524 - England 63-0
Just the one scoring shot off a tight Fidel Edwards over, Cook spying the slower delivery and prodding into the covers for a couple. Looks like we're going to have a look at some spin now...
"Give us some extras please having a sweep at work when first one is scored. Thanks."
Jay Pea, York, via text on 81111
(I'll have a word and see what I can do mate)
1518 - England 61-0
More buffet-bowling from Powell as Strauss throws his bat at a wide one and slashes it square for a boundary, and the left-hander repeats the shot - albeit more uppishly - off ball six to bring up another four. That should ensure, almost definitely, Powell is given the chance to enjoy the Barbados sun from the boundary rope for a while you would think.
1514 - England 53-0
Just in case England's openers were thinking this is a doozy of a pitch and no mistake, Fidel Edwards puts his back into a bouncer and it has Andrew Strauss in all sorts of bother, the ball only missing the skipper's flailing bat by a hair's breadth. Michael Holding on Sky is getting perturbed because the pitch has pace and bounce; "what more do they want, seam as well?" he asks. No doubt Steve Harmison would want one of those bowling guides you get in Ten-Pin bowling alleys just to be doubly sure about accuracy.
"He wouldn't even bowl my mum and my brother out. He's ordinary. But then my mum was better than me..."
Geoffrey Boycott talking about Daren Powell on TMS
1509 - England 52-0
Daren Powell finally gets one in the right area and the ball rises a touch more off a normal length than expected and rips past Alastair Cook's bat first ball after drinks - but he can't repeat the trick again in the over and he only gets away with a short, wide one when Cook pumps it straight to point. Cook makes no mistake from a similar delivery last ball, though, and he punts it away for four. Geoff Boycott, above, seems to have given a rather accurate summary of Powell's effort so far today.
1501 - England 48-0
A single apiece for Strauss and Cook off Taylor and that's the first hour done. England call for the deck chairs and pina coladas, such is their dominance, while Windies skipper Chris Gayle enquires whether the toss can be decided "best of two out of three" in future Tests.
"Can anyone tell me why Strauss is always holding a sheet of paper at the toss. Is it the rules of the game or does he want Gayle's autograph?"
Roger, Denmark via the TMS inbox
1457 - England 46-0
Another tame over from Powell - who is looking about as threatening as a nun in a cuddly toy store - and Strauss helps himself to three runs through midwicket as the Windies paceman struggles for length and line. Kudos to Waldo0 on 606 who points out, on the evidence of the first 12 overs, that England might have been all right with three frontline batsman, a wicket-keeper and the rest of the side being bowlers on this pitch...
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1451 - England 43-0
Better control from Jerome Taylor as England pinch just the couple of singles, but the openers are setting themselves up for a big, big stand here and it looks a beauty of a toss to have won.
"Sam - I feel you have missed the tactical advantage of the Bopara/Flintoff exchange - it gives us another nightwatchmen option when 300 ahead to ensure we can snatch a draw from the jaws of victory."
Conrad C via the TMS inbox
"Test cricket will die unless it becomes more of a contest between bat and BALL again - which sadly it isn't at the moment in most pitches around the world."
Numpty_79 on 606
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1447 - England 40-0
You don't bowl there to Andrew Strauss - Daren Powell slipping a short one in wide of the opener's off-stump and the England skipper kerplunks it square and it races to the boundary. Strauss then flicks consecutive deliveries to the leg side for easy twos and a single to end the over makes it a more than comfortable 10 from the over - Powell leaking runs.
1442 - England 30-0
The West Indies' attempts to keep it full in the hope of extracting some swing are only encouraging England's openers to get on the drive and Strauss punches one on the up for another boundary to push the tourists' run rate up to three an over. Three singles from the rest of the over and I'm sure it won't be long before Sulieman Benn gets a go.
1438 - England 23-0
Daren Powell - a man under pressure with the ball despite his batting heroics last Test - comes on to bowl and his impact is immediate... but only in that England pile on the runs. Andrew Strauss weighs him up before turning one off the middle of his bat on the pull for four before crunching a glorious drive down the ground to make it back-to-back boundaries.
"This pitch had better deteriorate or we're done for."
zoltanwizmaster on 606
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"It's going to be hard to bowl sides out on here. I suspect Chris Gayle will have all three slow bowlers on before lunch."
Vic Marks on TMS
1433 - England 15-0
Jerome Taylor - far and away the most impressive of the West Indian bowlers in this series for me - bowls down another maiden with Cook happy to leave the ball alone outside off stump.
1429 - England 15-0
Cook times another nicely off his pads to grab three through mid-on, before Andrew Strauss underlines just how easy-paced this pitch is by climbing comfortably into a short ball and turning it away for a couple on the pull. Five off that over and the England openers look more comfortable than Danny Boyle counting the earnings from that Slumdog Millionaire film. That was a cracker wasn't it?
"Much more annoying than people reading your paper (1412) is when 6th form art students start drawing you on the train. This is particularly unpleasant because of the internal dialogue it sparks - "oh, I can't remember the last time a young woman worked so hard to make eye contact with me - I must be looking good today ... oh, no - I am an old codger useful only as a study of gravity on the human face"."
Andy, Cambridge via the TMS inbox
1425 - England 10-0
That's a bit more like it from Jerome Taylor, the paceman finding a bit of swing that sees the ball ricochet off Strauss's pads and up into the England skippers grill, before he beats the bat with the final delivery of the over as Andy S plays at one outside off and misses it by a lick of varnish. A maiden.
1420 - England 10-0
Already I think this may be a long ol' day for the Windies bowlers - Strauss tickles one off his legs before Cook easily pulls another away as Fidel Edwards tests the middle of the pitch, and the former then times one off his pads in front of midwicket for three.
1415 - England 5-0
First glimpse of an attacking stroke from England and it comes from Alastair Cook, the left-hander opening his shoulders at a wide one and thick-edging it through point for four. Fewer scares in this pitch so far than in a Wes Craven 'horror' movie.
"It's a cagey start from the West Indies but it's a good ploy to get the ball full, see if it swings and tempt [Strauss and Cook] outside off stump."
Vic Marks on Test Match Special
1412 - England 1-0
Alastair Cook gets England up and running with a clip off his pads for one, but both he and Strauss are content to have a look at things before playing at too many deliveries. So there is time for me to ask this - are there many things in life more annoying than someone reading your paper over your shoulder on the tube? I reckon it should be a criminal offence.
"Re 1355: Tomorrow you will be predicting the return of Elvis!"
Ben, Plymouth via the TMS inbox
1405 - England 0-0
Jerome Taylor opens the bowling and it's a neat over, without exposing any real demons in what looks a motorway of a pitch. Andrew Strauss gets good bat on a couple but Taylor fields well off his own bowling and it's a maiden.
1359: And here we go people, strap yourselves in... And don't forget you can keep up to date with the first Test between South Africa and Australia in Johannesburg by clicking on the below link. A veritable feast of top quality cricket action, no?
South Africa v Australia
"Adding to your mini swipe at Freddie (1349), have a ganders at the stats for tests won with and without Freddie over the last couple of years. I think it reads something like 15% won with him in the side and 50% won without. Oooeeer missus."
Stu VW, Derby via the TMS inbox
1355: We're minutes away from the start and so I'm going to hit you with a prediction (dun dun dun). England will win by tea on day five, Bopara to grab a hundred, and Broady to lead a stunning performance from the bowling unit that will see the Windies bowled out twice cheaply. Oh who am I kidding...
"Re 1344 - Have you seen the new Mr Muscle?! Hes all beefy and shiny these days, and considering hes already a mean competitor against grime and lime-scale, I think Iron-Mike would have his work cut out!"
Simon, Bristol via the TMS inbox
1349: Yes, well done one and all, you picked up on my "deliberate" mistake earlier of saying both Freddie and Andrew Flintoff were out. Wouldn't it be great to have two Flintoffs in the England side, though? Just think, between them they'd get 60 or 70 runs and at least four wickets a match hey? (Throws cat amongst pigeons and runs...)
1344: A look and a listen to the crowd suggests the locals are out-numbered approximately 500-1 (give or take) making the atmosphere here more one-sided than a Mike Tyson v Mr Muscle face-off. A lot of chat already via email, text on 81111 and 606 over England's selection - a lot of you advocating five frontline bowlers, but would you really have been able to rely on Tim Ambrose at number six? A manoeuvre more risky would not have been witnessed since Metallica floated the idea of doing a 7-inch disco remix of "Die Die my Darling".
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West Indies: CH Gayle (capt), DS Smith, RR Sarwan, RO Hinds, S Chanderpaul, BP Nash, D Ramdin (wkt), JE Taylor, DBL Powell, SJ Benn, FH Edwards.
England: AJ Strauss (Capt), AN Cook, OA Shah, KP Pietersen, PD Collingwood, RS Bopara, TR Ambrose (Wkt), SCJ Broad, GP Swann, RJ Sidebottom, JM Anderson.
Umpires: Aleem Dar and R B Tiffin
"Bad selection from England. How do we hope to get 20 wickets with just four frontline bowlers????"
nbakewell on 606
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1336: West Indies skipper Chris Gayle, who has named an unchanged side, admits he'd have had a bat as well - the pitch looks very dry apparently - but he is hoping the wicket will "do a bit" early doors. The word is that otherwise it is a pitch of more pace and bounce and Strauss looks happier than a kid in a sweet shop at having called correctly, saying England will be looking to "go big".
1335: ENGLAND WIN TOSS AND BAT FIRST
1330: TEAM NEWS SNAP
And here's the team news folks - Ravi Bopara, Ryan Sidebottom and Tim Ambrose are IN, Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison and Matt Prior are OUT. I have to say, I like the look of that...
1328: Right then, two (and a bit) Tests down, two to go, England 1-0 down. A humiliating defeat in Jamaica was followed by a frustrating draw in Antigua - if the curve of improvement continues in the same vein England will win this fourth Test in Barbados and wrap up the series victory inside two days in the final outing in Trinidad, right?!
That said, things might not be quite plain sailing for Andrew Strauss's England boys (a statement almost as obvious as saying Kevin Pietersen quite likes himself) - key all-rounder Freddie Flintoff is out injured, wicket-keeper Matt Prior has returned home after the birth of his baby son and Steve Harmison looks so out of touch he may as well don a bright pink shellsuit and go raving in an underground garage. Tim Ambrose is in, while Ravi Bopara, Amjad Khan, Ryan Sidebottom and Ian Bell are vying for position... where's your money?
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