A couple of years ago, on the eve of his Test debut, when a journalist asked ‘How old were you when you thought you would play for England?’, he said, “About a couple of weeks ago.” And here he is making his mark on the international arena. Some say he has Mark Waugh’s flick, Ian Bell’s cover-drive, etc. But this lad has a name which is here to stay – Ollie Pope.
Coming into bat at 92/3, with the game still in the balance, Ollie Pope showed why there is so much fuss around him. After Burns fell before tea, he joined Jos Buttler, who is struggling to get the hang of the longer format. He played the aggressor, taking the pressure off Buttler. Pope kept the scoreboard ticking with quick singles against the seamers. When the spinners came on, he was even more proactive. He was jumping out of the crease for one ball and going back on the next.
Particularly, in the post-tea session, Pope scored 35 runs in the first 38 balls that he faced. He was consistently unsettling the bowlers by taking the attack to them. Along with Buttler, he added 136 runs for the fifth wicket, and the duo remained unbeaten till the end. Pope was nine short of a scintillating hundred, as they walked off the field due to bad light. Meanwhile, Buttler tried to play the patient game. He took 38 balls to reach double figures which is the most so far in his career. As per the ESPNCricinfo data, he batted with 90% control during his innings. When the spinners came on with the old ball, he scored quickly with a couple of fours and sixes to reach his half-century.
Kemar Roach was the pick of the bowlers for the West Indies. He dismissed Sibley in the first over, and more significantly, he came back in the post-lunch session to remove the big man Ben Stokes, who was promoted to bat at number four. Noticing that Stokes was standing outside the crease, Roach sent in a couple of accurate short balls. Stokes responded instinctively by going back a couple of yards. Roach came closer to the stumps and swung it back into the left-hander. The ball went through the bat-pad gap and hit the stumps. This tactic was used time and again by the Windies seamers to push the batsmen back whenever they were coming forward towards them.
Earlier, Jason Holder won the toss and put England in to bat yet again. Both England and the West Indies had made contrasting changes to their line-up. While the hosts added an extra-seamer in place of Zak Crawley, Alzarri Joseph paved way for an additional-spinner in Rakheem Cornwall for the Windies. The tourists were off to a great start with an early breakthrough. The seamers, particularly Roach, made the most of the overcast conditions.
England captain Joe Root, who was batting at number three today, joined Rory Burns and tried to build a partnership. While the latter looked more assured, Root did not have it easy. According to Cricviz data, for the first time, he played ten false shots in the first 25 balls he faced. While he hung in there batting at a strike rate of 28.81, a direct hit from Roston Chase put an end to his innings.
Burns, at the other end, stalled one end as he saw his partners come and go. Despite the consistent seam movement from fast bowlers and turn from Cornwall, he stuck to his unorthodox technique and made runs the way he knew. He went on to make his seventh half-century in the post-lunch session. Like it has happened many times before, Chase broke the partnership and dismissed him for 57. Trying to cut chase through point, Burns edged it to Cornwall, who took a brilliant catch at first slip. It was the third time he had got out to Chase in this series.
Brief scores: England 258/4 (Ollie Pope 91*, Jos Buttler 56*, Kemar Roach 2/56) v West Indies