Ollie Pope and Jos Buttler put England in charge of third Test decider against West Indies

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Ollie Pope answered England’s prayers while Jos Buttler served up a treat to put the hosts in control of the third Test decider.

Coming together at 122-4, the pair added an unbroken 136 to close the day on 258-4 and put England back on course to claim the last-ever Wisden Trophy.

Pope’s 91 not out was his first 50 on home soil, giving him the chance to fulfil his dream of a second Test ton on Saturday. The same can be said of Buttler, who is also looking for his second century after many more chances. Both Pope and Buttler had struggled this series for different reasons.

With memories of his first Test hundred in South Africa in the winter, Pope bounded out into the middle at the Ageas Bowl like an Andrex puppy.

He was super confident, unfurling a couple of boundaries as if Test match batting were the easiest thing in the world. But a couple of 12s showed it is anything but.

Pope, 22, arrived here with a need to show more discipline to go with all his strokes.

At times it was skittish, but in between were strokes of pure class. There is a touch of Ian Bell about Pope and not just because he is a small ginger-haired right-handed batsman.

It is the way he dabs a late cut to the third-man boundary or how he almost gets down on one knee when hitting the ball through the covers.

But Pope has his own style too, such as when he pulled a short ball from Shannon Gabriel in front of square for another four.

For Buttler, it was a much-needed innings after an underwhelming winter.

He was secure in defence and happy to wait until the time was right to pop the spin of Rahkeem Cornwall into the stands for a pair of monster sixes.

The introduction of Cornwall did not quite go to plan for the Windies as England played him far more comfortably than Roston Chase.

But the two spinners combined brilliantly when Rory Burns edged a sharp chance to Cornwall’s right at slip and the big man stuck out a big paw and held on.

Joe Root was run out for 17, while Ben Stokes looked as stunned as anyone to be bowled by Kemar Roach for 20 by an inswinging beauty.

Bob Willis would have been “unbelievably proud” to see counties competing for a trophy bearing his name and likeness, said his widow Lauren Clark.

All 18 counties will compete for the Bob Willis Trophy this summer. The England legend died last year, aged 70.

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