(Reuters) - Gritty knocks from openers Dom Sibley and Rory Burns helped England reduce West Indies’ lead to 35 as the hosts reached 79 for one at lunch on the fourth day of the first test at Southampton’s Ageas Bowl on Saturday.
Resuming their second innings on 15-0, Sibley and Burns saw off a testing opening burst from West Indies pacers Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach before settling into their stride.
Burns, the more aggressive of the two openers, brought up England’s 50 in the 20th over with a crisp cut through backward point off the bowling of West Indies skipper Jason Holder.
However, he had departed for 42 shortly before lunch, slicing a short-pitched delivery from Roston Chase straight to John Campbell at backward point and bringing an end to England’s longest opening partnership since the start of 2017.
Joe Denly (one not out) survived a testing spell from Alzarri Joseph and, alongside Sibley (31 not out), saw England through to lunch.
The home side will look to capitalise on their solid foundation and build a lead in the second session with the pitch showing signs of deteriorating.
West Indies had taken a commanding 114-run lead in the first innings after posting 318 in response to England’s 204.
The test is the first international cricket match after a 117-day absence because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The three-match series is being played without fans in a “bio-secure environment” with daily health checks, home umpires and a ban on shining the ball with saliva.
Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris