England recovered from the brink of disaster thanks to a 10th-wicket stand of 90 between Jack Leach and Saqib Mahmood against West Indies on the first day of the deciding Test of the series in Grenada on Thursday.

England was bowled out for 204 at stumps in its first innings, a modest total which nevertheless was way better than they possibly could have dreamed of when it was 114 for nine.

READ | UK govt backs calls to cut funding unless ECB tackles racism

In his second Test, Mahmood (49) made his highest first class score, while the bespectacled Leach made 41 not out after being dropped on 10 by Kyle Mayers at first slip, a regulation chance that might come back to haunt the hosts.

Just when it seemed England would survive until the close, Mahmood dragged a ball onto his stumps from part-time spinner Jermaine Blackwood that he could easily have left alone.

For all its early success in ripping through the top order, West Indies let England off the hook late in the innings with some poor bowling, fielding and wicket-keeping as their frustration built at their inability to mop up the 10th wicket.

Captain Kraigg Brathwaite also made some puzzling bowling choices in using himself and fellow part-time spinner Nkrumah Bonner while waiting for the new ball.

The pair served up some cannon fodder and barely troubled the England No. 10 and 11, who helped themselves to runs almost at will, a far cry from earlier in the day when the five-pronged West Indies pace attack made the lively pitch look like a minefield.

Bowling all-rounder Mayers picked up two vital early wickets without conceding a run as West Indies eyed winning the Caribbean series following draws in the first two Tests.

Mayers quickly justified his inclusion after being picked for the first time in the series, replacing spinner Veerasammy Permaul.

Watched by Keith Mitchell, the prime minister of the tiny island nation of barely 100,000, Mayers took the first two wickets, getting opener Zak Crawley caught at short cover for seven.

He then had England captain Joe Root caught behind for a duck from a delivery that moved just enough off the pitch to nick the edge of the bat.

READ | Pakistan requires 278 vs Australia on final day

It was Root's first Test duck against West Indies, and his 11th overall.

Mayers finished with figures of 2-13 from 10 overs.

After struggling to bowl out England on benign pitches in Antigua and Barbados, the West Indies attack suddenly looked a flashback to the not too distant past when they regularly produced the most menacing pace assault in the world.

Kemar Roach and Alzarri Joseph each claimed two wickets, while Jayden Seales picked up three, including two beauties which bowled Ben Foakes (7) and Chris Woakes (25).

The England top order collapse more than justified the decision by Brathwaite to send England in on winning the toss.

"There's some moisture around and the pitch has a decent layer of grass," Brathwaite said after winning the coin toss for the first time this series.