BIRMINGHAM: A day that started brightly ended in typical uncertainty for West Indies, after Alastair Cook and Joe Root plundered hundreds to give England an early hold on the historic First Test yesterday.
After wickets for Kemar Roach and Miguel Cummins in the first hour put a smile on the Windies’ faces, the unflappable Cook batted through the opening day of the first ever day/night Test in this country and was undefeated on 153, and Root, the player that succeeded him in the post of England captain, made 136, as the home team reached 348 for three in their first innings at the close.
The pink Dukes cricket ball being used and an easy-paced Edgbaston pitch, hosting its 50th Test, offered little assistance to the visitors’ attack that comprised mainly four fast bowlers – Roach, Cummins, skipper Jason Holder and Alzarri Joseph.
For the better part of the day, there was little for West Indies to celebrate, after Roach and Cummins removed debutant left-handed opener Mark Stoneman and rookie Tom Westley respectively, both for eight, to leave England 39 for two.
A lack of consistency from the Windies’ bowlers saw Cook and Root purposefully wrestle the balance power England’s way with a record 248-run, third-wicket stand.
Small periods of attrition from the Caribbean side were often broken by crisp strokes for boundaries from Cook and Root, as they majestically advanced their own and their side’s cause before a near capacity crowd.
Holder came close to breaking the stand in the period between lunch and tea, when Root top-edged a cut through the slips to third man for his 10th boundary to reach his 50 from 83 balls before he later swept a wayward delivery from part-time off-spinner Roston Chase hard down the leg-side for his 19th four to bring up his 13th Test hundred from 139 balls.
Chase was again in the thick of things, when Cook chopped a delivery to backward point for a single to reach his 31st Test hundred from 187 balls in the third over after tea.
Roach, playing his first Test in 19 months after battling back from a succession of injuries and patchy form, used his vast experience and was easily the pick of the bowlers.
He was rewarded for his persistence throughout the day, when he bowled Root in the final hour of regulation time, after the England captain essayed a tired-looking drive at a delivery that moved back after pitching to finish with 2-72 from 20 overs.
Things might have looked better for West Indies had slip fielder Jermaine Blackwood held onto a very sharp chance, after Dawid Malan, on two, top-edged a cut at a delivery from the part-time off-spin of Kraigg Brathwaite.
Holder’s strange decision to delay taking the second new ball when it became due after 80 further epitomised the lack of purpose from the Windies in the closing stages, as Malan batted through the remainder of the day to usher Cook to his 150 which came when he drove Joseph through mid-on for his 23rd boundary.
Before lunch, Roach had made the initial breakthrough with the first delivery of his second over, the third of the day, when he bowled Stoneman with a peach of a delivery that moved across the left-hander and hit the top of the off-stump.
Cummins, playing for the first time since last October ahead of out-of-sorts, regular spearhead Shannon Gabriel, earned an LBW verdict to remove Westley, following a review of a highly questionable decision from umpire Marais Erasmus.
For the close to the next four-and-a-half hours, there was no further success for the Windies, as Cook and Root gave proof of their class batting through either side of the interval to repair the early damage, as they have become accustomed in recent Tests taking England to lunch on 108 for two.
West Indies endured a fruitless toil between lunch and tea, as Root raced to his milestone and Cook inched to his landmark, fortifying England’s early grip, as they took their side to 215 for two. (CMC)