A last session consolidation by Jason Holder and Nkrumah Bonner saw West Indies battle their way back into the opening Test after a top-order collapse had threatened to derail their progress, on the second day at the Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium in Antigua.
Stumbling at tea on 127 for four after losing four quick wickets for 44 runs, West Indies hit back through an unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 75 between Holder and Bonner, to end the day on 202 for four – 109 runs adrift of a first-innings lead.
Holder, starting his innings after the final interval, was unbeaten on 43 at the close and was partnered by Bonner on 34, the pair ensuring England went without success in the final session marred by breaks due to squalls of rain.
Compact and organised, Holder has faced 104 balls and thumped half-dozen fours and a six – a gift from occasional off-spinner Joe Root which he deposited over long on – while Bonner has played the supporting role in an innings lasting 103 deliveries and including three fours.
Captain Kraigg Brathwaite top-scored with an uncharacteristically breezy 55 while his left-handed partner John Campbell struck 35, the pair entertaining in an 83-run opening stand before things fell apart quickly in the post-lunch period.
Each team had earlier claimed a session, West Indies clearly taking the first with England hitting back in the second, with a cluster of wickets.
Resuming the morning on 268 for six, England were dismissed for 311 with young seamers Jayden Seales (4-79) and Alzarri Joseph (2-70) sharing the four wickets to fall.
Jonny Bairstow, resuming the day on 109, was the last wicket to fall for 140, the right-hander facing 259 deliveries in just under 6-½ hours and counting 21 fours.
West Indies needed six overs before they could make the first breakthrough of the morning when Chris Woakes, on 24 overnight, added four before gloving a lifter from Seales to wicketkeeper Joshua Da Silva.
And two balls later in the same over, Bonner outdid himself at short leg, holding on to a sharp chance to remove Craig Overton without scoring and with no addition to the total at 285 for eight.
Joseph, who bowled without luck on Tuesday’s opening day, final tasted success in his first over of the morning when he got Mark Wood to sky a short delivery to Veerasammy Permaul at point for one.
The languid Antiguan then ended the innings about 40 minutes before the scheduled lunch break when Bairstow got a leading edge and was brilliantly held by Holder running over his shoulder to backward point.
Any nerves about surviving the tricky period before the interval were quickly dispelled as Brathwaite and Campbell played positively to race to 44 without at lunch, putting England quickly on the back foot.
Playing with welcomed confidence, Brathwaite notched seven fours and a six – a straight hit off left-arm spinner Jack Leach – in an innings coming from just 70 balls in a shade over 1-¾ hours.
Campbell, returning to the Test side after 12 months on the sidelines, stroked half-dozen fours off 63 deliveries in just over 1-¼ hours.
It was the Jamaican who perished first, caught down the leg-side pulling at a delivery of no particular merit from seamer Overton.
Brathwaite brought up his 24th Test half-century approaching the first hour but lasted only another nine balls before slashing speedster Mark Wood hard to gully where Overton took a sharp chance.
When Shamarh Brooks (18) edged an innocuous delivery from medium pacer Ben Stokes and was caught at the wicket and Jermaine Blackwood fell to a catch at gully off Woakes for 11 off the last delivery before tea, West Indies were threatening to implode but Holder and Bonner stonewalled England.