England's batsmen explored every trick up their sleeve. Joe Denly trod water for the best part of his morning travails. Rory Burns crawled into his shell, letting pass anything that wasn't directed towards his body. Ben Stokes opened his stance and frequently shimmied down the pitch to negate lateral movement.
Jos Buttler flirted with the idea of an emphatic counterpunch. Heck, even James Anderson, the perennial nightwatchman, stood two inches outside the crease to take the leg-before out of the equation. Though for all their strategic manoeuvring, England raised the white flags against an exhibition of parsimonious swing bowling from Windies' talisman, Jason Holder.
Having slogged like horses on benign featherbeds, pacemen visiting England often have their jaws dropped upon witnessing the lavish zip and bounce the tracks offer, which eventually cajoles them into bowling predominantly short.
Perchance, better sense prevails, and the speedsters happen to pitch the ball into driving lengths, the quest to extract the juice of the surface in entirety transpires at the expense of discipline. However, much to England's chagrin, the tourists had done their homework alright.
Shannon Gabriel set the tone up front, hovering around the fourth-stump channel with such laser-guided precision that could put fighter jet missiles to shame. He'd hurled four away-slanters, each pushing Denly further across the line, before uncorking an inducker that bludgeoned through the right-hander's defences.
Burns' anxiety too grew manifold as Gabriel refused to budge a smidgen from the secured confines of the 'corridor of uncertainty.' With scoring avenues shrinked to zilch, the southpaw ran out of patience and was trapped plumb looking to glance fine an attempted yorker.
Jason Holder reaps rewards of persistence
The vociferous cheers emanating from the slip cordon when Jason Holder brought himself into the attack once Gabriel lost steam must have sounded to the hosts as the bell of impending doom. For, to begin with, the captain's modus operandi of nagging military mediums alongside the calibre to move the cherry prodigiously in both directions resembled the formula Gabriel had employed to tremendous success.
Moreover, the departure of Burns and Denly meant an inexperienced middle-order comprising of youngsters Ollie Pope and Zak Crawley was thrown into the deep end rather prematurely. And, the shrewd tactician in Jason Holder didn't waste any time in exploiting the chinks in England's armour.
Crawley committed the generic error of plonking his front foot too far ahead and was pinned dead on the knee roll while Pope feathered behind nibbling at an innocuous delivery which should have been left alone at all costs.
Gabriel and Kemar Roach, for brief phases after the lunch interval, did veer from the wheels and served charitable looseners galore that saw Stokes and Butler discover some elusive momentum. But, Jason Holder didn't allow the momentary glitches in execution from his senior counterparts, as well as a couple of fielding lapses, to sabotage the Windies' juggernaut.
Stokes locomoted to and fro from the popping crease, quite extravagantly on several occasions, to disrupt Jason Holder's rhythm. Albeit the seamer stuck to his guns as the trigger-happy Stokes perished hanging his willow out to dry. "It was a big wicket to get."
Jason Holder waxed lyrical. "Stokesy was looking set and we had put down two chances. He was looking to make us pay for it. He was just trying to upset our lines. He was trying to get outside off to get us to bowl at his pad or something that he could leave. I just wanted our bowlers to not leave the stumps. Pretty much everyone was getting the ball to move away and I just wanted the bowlers to force him to play," Jason Holder said.
"My role was to keep challenging their techniques. I knew once I kept things tight from my end, they are going to look for a release from the other end. When I came in, his partnership with Jos was starting to blossom and it was important to end it. I was getting just decent movement and more or less just wanted to keep it in play. They were scoring both sides of the wicket. One thing I stress is to not allow them to score both sides of the wicket and we need to be disciplined," he added.
The finishing touches were applied smoothly forthwith after Butler, the last recognized batsman, poked at Jason Holder's lifter. Jofra Archer was caught napping as one of the West Indies captain's thunderbolts rammed into his pads. Mark Wood threw the kitchen sink at an enticing half-volley only for the fat outside edge to be grasped at third slip. As if the magnificent six-wicket haul wasn't already an accomplishment significant enough, Jason Holder added the icing on the cake by nailing three review calls.
Nobody would begrudge that sort of a blockbuster day at the office, and Jason Holder was jubilant too but abstained from resting on his laurels. "It feels good to contribute." he gushed.
"It's a proud moment to get six wickets against England and I want to do anything to help this team. I would like to score some more runs. My Test match is far from over. I still have a massive contribution to make from the bat and that's going to be my focus. I don't want to get caught with anything else. Three long days to go and that's my focus," Jason Holder added.Published 10 Jul 2020, 09:59 IST