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England's understudy pace attack grafted for their deserved wickets at Edgbaston as the third Investec Test finally got under way on day three.
Following two successive washouts, England captain Andrew Strauss unsurprisingly chose to bowl under cloudy skies and unleash Graham Onions, Steven Finn and Tim Bresnan.
But thanks in part to Ian Bell's faulty slip catching, and then the doughty Marlon Samuels (50 not out), England's rewards were hard-earned as West Indies moved to 164 for five by tea on what is effectively day one of three.
England rested Stuart Broad, meaning both their first-choice new-ball bowlers were out of the equation here after James Anderson was left out of a 12-man squad last weekend.
The Windies made four changes to the team which lost at Trent Bridge, to go 2-0 down with just this match to play, and crucially were minus lynchpin batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul because of a side strain.
But if that made them look more vulnerable than ever, they got to within one run of something they had previously fallen well short of in this series - a 50 opening stand.
England's seamers operated mostly at a full length from the outset, preferring to seek out swing than bounce.
Adrian Barath and Kieran Powell's readiness to leave deliveries very close to or on the line of the stumps was therefore fraught with danger, even on this pacy pitch.
Barath had made just four when Onions, back in Test cricket for the first time since January 2010 after his career-threatening injury, should have been in the wickets column in just his second over.
Instead, Bell - in at third slip for this match in the absence of Anderson - missed a straightforward chance.
Onions' hopes of his comeback wicket were duly raised and dashed again when Barath left another straight one and was hit on the pad. The lbw appeal was turned down by Tony Hill, and England lost a review too as Hawkeye demonstrated the ball was only clipping the bails.
Barath continued to ride his luck, but Powell's ran out at the start of Bresnan's second spell when he edged to second slip - where Graeme Swann just managed to cling on this time.
Barath, joined by debutant Assad Fudadin, greeted the introduction of Swann's off-spin with a flat-batted drive for six from the crease over long-on.
Finn had reason, straight after lunch, to rue Bell's frailties in the slips - Barath escaping again on 408.
But the second drop was not costly.
Barath soon went, and Onions at last had his 29th Test wicket, lbw after a failed review from the batsman of a delivery which simulation suggested would have hit the outside of leg-stump.
Darren Bravo, who has so far failed to hit the heights many predicted on this tour, went cheaply - and in puzzling circumstances - when he pushed a routine forward-defensive shot back into Finn's hands for caught-and-bowled.
Fudadin dug in but had just spent 28 balls over his 28th run when Bresnan decided it was time to test him out with the short ball, a change of tactic which worked almost immediately as the left-hander got in a tangle and looped an edge which Bell simply could not miss.
By then the in-form Samuels was well-established, for the fifth time in a series which has yet to see him fail.
From his preferred base deep in the crease, he was still well able to punish Bresnan when he over-pitched in search of swing. A fine spell from Onions gave him some discomfort, however, and culminated in the wicket of Narsingh Deonarine - edging to slip, where Strauss took a neat catch.
But before tea there came a six over wide long-on off Swann, followed by his sixth boundary next ball, to take Samuels to his fourth successive 50.