North Sound (Antigua): A fighting unbeaten century from England middle-order batter Jonny Bairstow — his eighth Test ton — saw England recover from a disastrous start on the opening day of the first Test against the West Indies to post 268/6 at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium here on Wednesday (IST).
Bairstow built big partnerships with first all-rounder Ben Stokes and then Ben Foakes as England bounced back with the bat on the opening day. West Indies seamers Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales and Jason Holder all picked up two wickets on the day, with Holder producing amazing control to concede just 15 runs from his 16 overs.
England will resume with Bairstow on 109 not out and Chris Woakes on unbeaten 24.
West Indies haven’t lost a home series to England since 2004, and showed why they will be confident of extending that run this time around in a dramatic opening session. With the pitch looking every-inch a bat-first track, England were handed that opportunity of batting first after skipper Joe Root won the toss.
But the tourists got off to a wobbly start as debutant Alex Lees fell in just the third over, pinned in-front by Kemar Roach for four runs with an LBW decision that a review didn’t overturn. And Zak Crawley followed his opening partner back to the dressing room in the very next over when he was brilliantly caught by Joshua Da Silva off Jayden Seales for eight.
The decision to move the England captain up to number three was one of the major changes following the 0-4 Ashes debacle earlier this year.
But Root’s first outing back at first drop was short-lived, as he was set up by a superb bit of bowling from Roach, following up an out-swinger with a peach of an in-dipper that clipped the top of off-stump while the batter shouldered arms. And when Dan Lawrence fell for 20 off the bowling of Jason Holder, England looked in danger of being bundled out extremely cheaply, with the score at 48/4 after 15.4 overs.
England survived any further losses before lunch, with Holder going in at the break with eye-catching figures of five overs, five maidens, one wicket for zero runs.
As the ball became softer and England’s travelling fans grew louder on their first away trip in two years, Bairstow and Stokes helped lead the recovery with a battling partnership that took the tally beyond three figures.
Stokes’ 95-ball stay at the crease came to a dramatic end when he was castled by Seales for 36. But Ben Foakes, back in the side as keeper, continued the progress and saw England through to tea five-down.
The rate of scoring increased at the start of the final session of the day, with Foakes and Bairstow playing some classy shots to help England beyond 200 and towards a competitive first-innings total.
But Foakes was denied a half-century on his return to Test cricket when he was trapped LBW by Holder for an excellent 42, part of a 99-run partnership with Bairstow.
The loss of the last final frontline batter didn’t see a change in approach from Bairstow, who just kept on moving through the gears as Chris Woakes soaked up the deliveries at the other end. The celebrations were big when Bairstow eventually reached his eighth century in Test cricket with a sweep to the backward-square boundary off Kraigg Brathwaite.
The Yorkshireman’s ton came off the 190th delivery he faced on the day, and means he has scored hundreds in consecutive Tests — following his 113 in Sydney.
With England’s attack missing the unselected James Anderson and Stuart Broad and without an injured Ollie Robinson, the West Indies will hope to restrict Bairstow, Woakes and company before responding in kind with the bat on day two.
Brief scores: England 268/6 in 86 overs (Jonny Bairstow 109 not out, Ben Stokes 36, Ben Foakes 42, Chris Woakes 24 not out; Kemar Roach 2/71, Jayden Seale 2/64, Jason Holder 2/15) vs West Indies.