Recalling England’s three victories in 16 previous Tests at Kensington Oval, the Gaffer’s century in both innings of the 1994 Test comes to mind, or Graham Thorpe’s unbeaten 119 in the first innings 10 years later when the next highest score by a team-mate was 17. But we should not overlook the fact that without Gus Fraser’s eight for 75 and Andy Caddick’s five for 63 in “Stewie’s Test” and Andrew Flintoff’s five for 58 and Matthew Hoggard’s four for 35 in 2004, England would have been sunk.
It’s a roundabout way of saying that the batsman have done their jobs – no more, no less – now it’s the bowlers’ turn. Ashley Giles bowled merely nine overs on the visit 18 years ago but Phil Tufnell’s match figures of four for 176 on Mike Atherton’s first Caribbean tour as captain, dismissing a well-set Shivnarine Chanderpaul, a hamstrung Desmond Haynes, Keith Arthurtonwhio had made 52 and Winston Benjamin were instrumental to the victory.
Jack Leach may lack the guile of Tufnell but he bowled well last night and has the kind of dogged courage to go into the fray without the benefit of pace, swing or sharp turn to keep the batsmen honest that will be required over three days that will likely be a trial of patience, as all Tests England play in the West Indies since 2004 tend to be.
Incidentally, England’s other victory, in 1935, was shaped by rain and the desire for a positive result. West Indies made 102 on a pitch where the ball leapt alarmingly off a good length, England juggled their batting order to try to protect their best from the spitting cobras, declared at 81 for seven to put West Indies back in and they did the same with their order, declaring on 51 for six to set England 73 for victory, confident that the sticky dog would do for them. England knocked them off for the loss of six wickets with Wally Hammond, coming in at No6, and the captain Bob Wyatt, at No8, rescuing them from 48 for six. Oh for the days of uncovered pitches!