England: Joe Root carries effort with unbeaten century against West Indies
Joe Root’s golden touch lit up the Kensington Oval as his 25th Test century handed England the perfect start to their second Test against the West Indies.
Riding high off a knock of 109 in the second innings of last week’s draw in Antigua, Root was even better in Barbados as he reached 119 not out from a day one total of 244 for three.
Around 8,500 visiting fans were present to take in the spectacle and all four corners of the famous old ground received a wave of the England captain’s bat as they sang his name long and loud to the tune of The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’.
By reaching a quarter-century of centuries Root has entered rarefied air, vaulting past illustrious names such as Sir Vivian Richards, Greg Chappell and Mohammad Yousuf as well as contemporaries David Warner and Kane Williamson.
Dan Lawrence had looked certain to follow his skipper to a ton, but there was a sting in the tail for him as he picked out short cover one ball before the close. He had just hit successive fours to reach a career-best score of 91, but hit the deck in despair after his exuberance cost him a certain hundred.
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The West Indies had earlier contributed to their own struggles, sparing Root a review on 23, dropping him on 34 and putting down Lawrence late on to further darken their moods.
Root’s day had started with an 11th-hour change to his team-sheet, with Craig Overton dropping out of the XI in the morning after feeling unwell overnight.
Given the option of reversing their cautious stance on Ollie Robinson, a proven Test match performer but a gamble given his recent back problems, England instead decided to hand the opportunity to uncapped Yorkshire seamer Matthew Fisher.
Having already selected one debutant in the shape of Lancashire quick Saqib Mahmood, England were now committed to blooding two untried seamers in the same attack for the first time since Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions in 2009.
There will be much intrigue when the Roses rivals team up with the new ball, as they are expected to, but Root delayed their introduction by winning the toss and batting first.
Gentle batting conditions did not prevent England suffering their customary early loss, with Zak Crawley following up his Antiguan century with a seven-ball duck. Uncertain about whether or not to play at Jayden Seales, he sent a tentative edge straight through to the keeper.
That was the only real action of a ponderous morning session, during which England reached 47 for one as Alex Lees gritted his teeth and clung to the crease. He managed just 16 runs in two hours of occupation, digging in and waiting for loose deliveries that barely materialised.
Root was brighter as he almost doubled Lees’ contribution, smashing Seales through cover on one knee and tucking into the first of many swivel pulls. But he was also offered a life. Had the West Indies pursued Jason Holder’s shout for caught behind, the TV umpire would have ruled in their favour, but Root’s face was inscrutable as the fielding side allowed the DRS timer to run down.
Allowing Root one let off in his current form is bad enough, but twice is asking for trouble. That is exactly what happened when Kemar Roach strangled him down leg, only for the ball to pop out of Josh Da Silva’s glove as he dived.
From the moment Root remarked his guard, it seemed inconceivable that he would not cash in handsomely. Lees made no such promises and his low-key stay ended in suitably low-key fashion for 30, lbw to a gentle turner from Veerasammy Permaul. Of the 138 balls Lees faced, he scored off just 15.
Strong finish from Joe Root
Root had reached 50 off the previous delivery but appeared to be unshackled by Lawrence’s arrival at number four. The Essex player took 10 balls to get off the mark but soon hit a sweet spot, beating mid-on to the right and left with back-to-back drives before clubbing Permaul for six.
Root had already opened up his favoured scoring areas at third man and soon started working through his arsenal of sweeps, threading the spinner easily in the arc between fine leg and mid-wicket.
At tea the change in impetus had raised the total to 136 for two and the 20-minute break did nothing to energise a leggy attack. Alzarri Joseph was guilty of dropping too short, too often in a poor spell at the start of the evening session, repeatedly testing out the pulls and hooks of two players who had no issues meeting the challenge.
For Root, it was all too easy. Helped along by a misfield from John Campbell at deep square and some more uninspired bumpers from Seales, he was soon raising his arms in a familiar celebration.
The West Indies had lost all focus, missing a run-out chance when Lawrence over-committed, then putting him down at slip as a regulation chance evaded Joseph. In the end he gave it away right at the close, pumping Holder straight to the waiting catcher to end his eye-catching stay.
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