ST JOHN'S, February 20 – England and West Indies drew the third Test on Thursday when play was called off due to bad light with the home side on 370-9 and with four overs to bowl at the Antigua Recreation Ground.
West Indies still lead the five-match series 1-0, but they were indebted to their last pair of Daren Powell, who finished unbeaten on 22 off 55 balls in a knock spread over 65 minutes, and Fidel Edwards who made five in a stay which ate up a crucial 34 minutes.
Adding to England’s problems was a worrying right hip injury suffered by star all-rounder Andrew Flintoff which could rule him out of the fourth Test in Barbados from February 26. He will undergo a scan later on Friday.
West Indies had earlier seen Ramnaresh Sarwan make 106, his 13th Test hundred.
"It’s pretty tough to take. We had to work exceptionally hard for our wickets today," admitted England skipper Andrew Strauss who set West Indies an unlikely 503-run victory target.
"The guys dug deep. Flintoff was bowling on one leg, so to get very close is a great effort."
West Indies captain Chris Gayle, whose team enjoyed an innings victory in the first Test in Jamaica by bowling out England for a paltry 51, said: "Give credit to the way England batted – but Shivnarine Chanderpaul (55) and Ramnaresh Sarwan batted really well."
In an enthralling last period, England looked set for victory.
When Sulieman Benn fell to off-spinner Graeme Swann in the first over of the last 15 for 21 runs, West Indies were 353 for nine.
But the visitors could not deliver the knockout punch, as Powell and Edwards batted through 10 more overs before umpires Daryl Harper and Rudi Koertzen offered them the light.
Stuart Broad was England’s most successful bowler with three wickets for 69 while Swann took three for 92.
England had been held up for the better part of the day as Sarwan fashioned a typically polished century.
For close to two hours, England were kept at bay, as Sarwan and Chanderpaul added 148 for the fourth wicket.
But Broad collected their prized scalps in an inspired spell of fast bowling before tea that sunk West Indies to 261 for five.
Before a crowd packed with scores of holidaying British visitors, Swann then trapped left-hander Brendan Nash lbw for 23 offering no stroke in the fourth over after West Indies continued from their teatime total of 279 for five.
Jerome Taylor joined Denesh Ramdin, and they importantly occupied the crease for the next 45 minutes before James Anderson made a belated entry in the match into the wickets column.
Unsuccessful in his previous 39 overs in the Test, Anderson had Taylor caught at mid-wicket for 11, and five overs later, had Ramdin bowled for 21 chopping a delivery into his stumps to leave West Indies teetering at 322 for eight.
But England’s bowlers, weary from a long, hard toil on an unresponsive pitch, lacked the energy to cross over the threshold.
Earlier, England had endured a fruitless toil before lunch in their bid for the series-levelling victory, as Sarwan and Chanderpaul batted defiantly, when West Indies continued from their overnight total of 143 for three.
England’s bowlers found the ARG pitch less than accommodating, and they would have been disappointed that it did not misbehave as they had expected during the morning period which was cut short by 45 minutes because of rain.
The remaining Tests in the series take place at Kensington Oval in Barbados from February 26 to March 2, and Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad from March 6 to 10.
The second Test at the nearby Sir Vivian Richards Ground was abandoned after just 10 balls last week because of a dangerous outfield.