Bridgetown (Barbados) : Skipper Joe Root scored the 25th century of his Test career and Dan Lawrence contributed 91 as England controlled the opening day of the second Test against West Indies here.
With the series all-square after a draw in Antigua, England moved into a strong first-innings position at the Kensington Oval thanks to a Root hundred and a fine half-century from Lawrence.
A wicket in the final over of the day saw Lawrence (91) miss out on the chance to bring up his first Test century, but Root will resume unbeaten on 119 with England on 244/3 at the close.
Ben Stokes will join Root at the crease for the start of Day Two, with England on 244 and with seven wickets remaining.
Earlier, the opening day of the Barbados Test started on a disappointing note for the tourists, with captain Root being forced to name a late change to the starting XI, with an unwell Craig Overton replaced by Matthew Fisher for a Test debut.
Fishe’s introduction meant that England are fielding two debutants in their seam attack, with Saqib Mahmood having already been confirmed as the replacement for an injured Mark Wood. But a green England seam attack were given time to put their feet up in the dressing room when Root won the toss and opted to bat first on what appears to be a benign surface in Bridgetown, said a report on the ICC website.
England’s troubles continued in the first session as Jayden Seales struck early to give the hosts a strong start in front of a packed and largely England-supporting crowd, removing Zak Crawley for a seven-ball duck.
But a patient partnership between Alex Lees and Root saw England through to 47/1 at lunch, with the scoring rate at well under two-an-over after the morning session. Root cruised through the gears after the inte’val, but Lees’ obstinate knock came to an end the ball after his captain had reached 50, with the Durham opener trapped in-front by spinner Veerasammy Permaul for a 138-ball 30.
New batter Lawrence had shown attacking flair and a selfless attitude in his second-innings cameo in Antigua, and showed similar positive intent right from the off in Barbados, stroking two fours to quickly reach double figures.
A fluent partnership developed between Root and the prodigious 24-year-old to take England to 136/2 by tea.
The rate of scoring increased markedly immediately after the tea break, with the pair racing towards their respective milestones and reaching them in consecutive deliveries. Lawrence brought up his fourth 50 in Test cricket with a pull around the corner for a single off the first ball of a Seales over, with the half-century coming off just 62 balls. And Root latched onto a bumper next up to flick away a single of his own to bring up his second century of the series and the 25th of his career.
The partnership blossomed from there as England built on the platform that Lees and Root had set in the morning session, and the English made hay.
Lawrence was given a reprieve when a takeable chance was put down by Alzarri Joseph off a frustrated Seales, with the drop not improving the mood of a tiring West Indian bowling attack. And a five-over burst with the new ball didn’t look like being enough to unsettle the England duo, as an increasingly well-oiled and boisterous traveling fanbase serenaded the pair in the middle.
But Lawrence, who had crunched back-to-back fours during the final over from Jason Holder, fell to the penultimate ball of the day for a career-best Test score of 91, finishing agonisingly short of his first Test century.
England are looking forward to continuing their domination on Day Two and put up a big total so that they don’t have to bat again in this Test.