Record-chasing James Anderson was thwarted on day four of the first Test against the West Indies, but a stunning slip catch from Chris Jordan left England on top in Antigua.
When Yorkshire batsman Gary Balance’s fine 122 allowed the tourists to declare just before tea with a lead of 437 it seemed like a memorable evening might be in the offing, Anderson leading the charge as he looked to replace Sir Ian Botham as England’s top wicket-taker in Tests.
But Anderson found himself stuck on 382, one behind the mark set by Botham 23 years ago, as Devon Smith (60 not out) took the hosts to 98-2 at stumps.
Smith was an unlikely roadblock, having not scored a Test half-century since December 2010.
England had set the game up expertly in rushing to 333-7, Jos Buttler joining Balance with a sparkling unbeaten cameo worth 59.
Stuart Broad struck with his fifth delivery of the chase, but England then went wicketless for the next 32 overs, a sequence which only ended when Jordan sprung one-handed to give occasional spinner Joe Root the breakthrough.
It was his second outrageous catch of the game, following a similarly impressive grab from Kraigg Brathwaite, and left his side needing eight wickets on the final day.
With all eyes on Anderson and his imminent place in the record books, it was Broad who set the ball rolling for the tourists in a brief burst before tea.
Brathwaite fended skittishly to Yorkshire’s Root at short leg and the hosts went to the interval in trouble on 9-1.
The expectation on Anderson was palpable when play resumed, but with the ball refusing to swing he was made to work hard. He worked his way through a seven-over spell which never quite looked worthy of a history-making moment.
Darren Bravo nudged a delivery in front of short leg then sprayed airily in the region of Jordan at gully, but neither were particularly close to finding hands.
There were a pair of lbw appeals too, one pitching outside leg against Smith and the other spoiled by a feather from Bravo’s bat.
The second-wicket pair settled into their task as the time ticked past, seeing off a handful of bowling changes as Jordan, James Tredwell and Ben Stokes all tried their arm.
In the end it was Root who did the trick, tempting the drive from Bravo (32) and hopping in delight when Jordan reacted brilliantly.
A near identical chance followed from Smith, but this time the magic evaded Jordan.
England had started the day on 116-3, 220 in front, and batted with great intent to add 217 in 48 overs.
Resuming on 44 – the spoils of a hard-working stint on the third evening – Balance was the anchor.
His first two scoring shots were boundaries, taking him past 50, and when offered any width outside off stump he cut with punchy precision.
Balance came into the match with three Test sixes to his name and added two more to that tally, slog-sweeping Sulieman Benn into the party stand and lofting Marlon Samuels high over long-off.
The shot that took him to three figures was just as emphatic, a jab down the ground off Benn followed by an expressive celebration.
If there was any doubt about whether his World Cup struggles had taken a toll, the combination of defiance and relief on his face ended the debate. When he finally departed it was in the correct spirit, hoisting Benn to deep midwicket in pursuit of six more.
Balance’s partners were equally single-minded.
Root topped up his overnight 32 with 27 effortless runs before Jason Holder trapped him, dragging on with an angled bat.
Stokes wasted little time collecting 35 runs, before being stumped four balls after lunch charging Benn.
Yet it was Buttler who provided the real spark.
He was in a hurry to claim his third half-century in four Test appearances, torturing the home spinners with a dexterous selection of orthodox and reverse sweeps.
He also hit long and hard down the ground with a pair of maximums over long-on.
The Lancashire wicketkeeper’s 56-ball assault extended the lead to 437, which was deemed enough when Jordan holed out and Alastair Cook declared.
Mustafa Kamal’s resignation as International Cricket Council president has been accepted, it was confirmed after the governing body’s quarterly meeting.
Bangladeshi politician Kamal resigned in the wake of voicing his disquiet at umpiring decisions in his country’s World Cup quarter-final defeat against India in Melbourne last month.
Kamal’s remarks were described at the time as “unfortunate” by ICC chief executive David Richardson, and he was subsequently prevented from being involved in Australia’s trophy presentation at the end of the tournament.
After a meeting in Dubai yesterday, the ICC clarified that there will be no immediate replacement for Kamal in a role which is largely ceremonial under its updated constitution.
Scorecard: Page 22.