West Indies have claimed four swift wickets since tea to bowl England out for 187 on day one of the second Test in Antigua.
An 85-run partnership between Moeen Ali, who scored a timely half century after a pair in Barbados, and Ben Foakes steadied England after they had slumped to 93-6, having lost the toss on a lively pitch.
But Moeen’s dismissal for 60 when he skied a Kemar Roach delivery to another instrumental fast bowler, Shannon Gabriel, who had all the time in the world to take the catch at midwicket shortly after tea, had the tourists in danger. And Gabriel played a big part again to bowl Foakes, whose mistimed pull resulted in him gloving the ball onto his hip then the stumps for 35.
Roach finshed with 4-30 after he had Sam Curran caught at fourth slip, while Gabriel took 3-45 and Alzarri Joseph 2-38.
Rory Burns, debutant Joe Denly, Joe Root and Jos Buttler all fell cheaply while Jonny Bairstow’s defiant knock was shut down on the second ball after lunch.
Having carved out a bold 52 off 64 deliveries, flying in the face of his team-mates’ performances as he picked off nine fours and a six, Bairstow almost lived to fight on – almost.
Roach, the architect of England’s first-innings collapse in Barbados, bellowed an appeal for lbw off a full, straight peach of a delivery, dropping to his knees to implore umpire Chris Gaffney as the finger stayed down. When DRS overturned the decision, showing that the ball was bang on target for leg stump, Bairstow was sent back to the pavilion.
With incoming batsman Moeen struggling – he made a pair in Barbados and played some loose, nervy shots to begin with in Antigua – it looked like it might fall to Ben Stokes to offer whatever steadying influence England could still muster. Gabriel had an alternative plan.
Gabriel appeared to have broken down in his first over of the match, limping off with some apparent leg pain before returning gingerly in time for his second. But he returned from lunch with plenty of spice in his bowling and character, sending down some brutal deliveries and engaging in a brief but notable verbal battle with Stokes.
While the chat ended in a good-natured bump of fists the bowling barrage continued. Gabriel whacked Stokes on the thumb with a spitting delivery that elicited a yelp of pain, though Stokes responded well with a straight drive for four on the next ball.
In his next over, Gabriel struck Moeen on the helmet with a short ball the batsman should have ducked but tried to pull instead. Just four balls later Gabriel delivered another pearler that forced a defensive prod from Stokes, only to be caught behind by Shane Dowrich.
England’s new opening combination of Burns and Denly endured four maiden overs before Burns was finally off the mark with a four, clipped through square leg off Roach. But Roach struck two balls later with a good line and length that tempted an outside edge from Burns, which was collected low at second slip by Jason Holder.
Denly was still not off the mark when he survived a huge appeal for lbw off Roach which the on-field umpire adjudged not out and, despite a strong argument for the batsmen to be out after looking at the DRS, too much ball was deemed to be missing leg stump and the umpire’s call stood.
Denly faced 15 balls for his first run and he only added five more before sabotaging his own innings by reaching for a short, wide Joseph delivery which was sailing well outside off stump, connecting with the toe of his bat and sending a simple catch to Dowrich.
In contrast, Root could do little about his dismissal to a vicious Joseph delivery that hit the top of his bat handle and bobbled up towards John Campbell who, reeling back at third slip, parried the ball high behind his head to Shai Hope, who ran across from gully to collect the catch.
Buttler came in ahead of Stokes for England but, when Holder had him out edging to Campbell at second slip, England looked to be in dire trouble.