ST GEORGE’S –– Middle-order batsman Joe Root scored a superb unbeaten century to steer England into pole position against the West Indies on day three of the second Test at the Grenada National Cricket Stadium today.
Despite Alastair Cook missing out on his ton and Ian Bell and Moeen Ali failing to deliver from the crease, it was a hugely satisfactory day for the tourists –– even Jonathan Trott got some runs to stifle some of his critics –– as they built up a lead of 74, ending the day on 373 for 6.
The third day belonged to the unflappable Root who cruised to his sixth Test century and first outside of England, demoralising all the tiring bowlers put before him and finishing the day on 118 having boosted his team’s hopes of winning.
Root, helped by his Yorkshire team-mate Gary Ballance, looked at ease throughout his two sessions as he settled the nerves after the loss of Cook and Bell and also equalled the English Test record of six consecutive scores of 50 or more.
Resuming on 74 without loss, Cook and Trott shared England’s first century opening stand in more than two years and slowly but surely tickled their way towards the hosts’ first innings score of 299, only for Trott to nick leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo to second slip on 59.
Bishoo bowled 22 overs in succession and did a much better job of keeping things tight than Sulieman Benn in Antigua, but when he returned in the evening session, his first over was taken for 16 by Root and Ballance. Bishoo would later pick up Ben Stokes, caught on the boundary in pursuit of quick runs late in the day, but figures of 2 for 124 spoke of West Indies’ toil.
The afternoon stage was set for Cook to make his 26th Test century and first since May 2013, but a rare attacking shot five overs after lunch proved to be his downfall.
Shannon Gabriel charged in around the wicket and angled the ball into the left-hander and Cook could only drag the ball onto the stumps having made 76 off 211 balls (159-2).
The usually reliable Bell soon followed having made just one and was victim to the same paceman playing exactly the same sloppy shot. After their bright start, England were rocking on 164-3 having lost three wickets for just 39.
It was time for a Yorkshire revival as Root and Ballance, fresh from a century stand in the second innings in Antigua, steadied the ship at the crease to slowly douse any hopes by the Windies of an English collapse.
England moved from second to fourth gear sensing this was a chance to push for victory with 110 runs in the afternoon session and it was more of the same after tea with the Windies bowling attack seemingly running out of ideas and energy.
After 99 overs, England took the lead, and as Root edged towards his century, his partners seemed to run out of patience.
First Ballance played on after a gentle toss up by Marlon Samuels, although his knock of 77 should not be under-estimated, while Moeen survived a run out attempt, only to try another crazy single on his fourth ball and lose his wicket.
Root’s deserved celebrations soon followed as he reached his 100 off 125 balls with 13 fours and two sixes.
As the sun started to set, there was still time for Stokes and Samuels to reignite their war of words, with the England all-rounder fuming at the West Indian’s send-off. Samuels saluted his rival as he walked off after being caught at cover by Jermaine Blackwood from a mis-timed pull.
Jos Buttler survived the final 15 minutes and England’s hero Root strolled off having guided his team to a position where victory may be attainable.
West Indies 1st Innings 299 All Out
England 1st Innings (Overnight; 74/0)
A Cook* b Gabriel 76
J Trott c Blackwood b Bishoo 59
G Ballance b Samuels 77
I Bell b Gabriel 1
J Root not out 118
M Ali run out (Blackwood/Ramdin) 0
B Stokes c Blackwood b Bishoo 8
J Buttler+ not out 4
Total: 373/6 (124 Overs)
Extras: (b 9, lb 2, w 1, nb 18) 30
Still to Bat: C Jordan, S Broad, M Ali, J Anderson.
West Indies 1st Innings: K Roach 24-4-77-0, S Gabriel 19-3-60-2, J Holder 18-6-49-0, D Bishoo 41-10-124-2, M Samuels 21-4-38-1, J Blackwood 1-0-14-0.