By Sandipan Banerjee
An excellent display of class and maturity by Ian Bell and couple of timely knocks by Joe Root and Ben Stokes have helped England to finish Day One of the Antigua Test against West Indies at 341 for five. After being reduced to 34 for three at one stage, this has been a remarkable recovery by the English team, who are playing Test cricket, after a gap of almost eight months.
The significance of this series is huge for the Alastair Cook-led team. After a dismal outing in the World Cup, English cricket was in disarray. They were criticised heavily all over the World. Some vital changes have been made in the England set up. So now its high time for them to produce some good results. And their fightback is starting with this first Test of the three match series. A perfect opportunity for them to perform in the format in which they generally thrive on.
Though the start was not so perfect for the visitors. On tricky wicket, West Indies skipper Denesh Ramdin won an important toss and chose to field first There were some scattered rain around at Antigua which probably influenced his decision. The Windies pacers backed their skipper’s decision as they struck three times before lunch to leave England tottering at 34 for three . Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach, and Jason Holder took a wicket apiece and the top three English batsmen were back in the hut.
In this game Jonathan Trott is making a comeback into England side but it was not a good outing for him with bat on Day One. He was pushed to open the innings. But Trott failed to deliver in his 50th Test, as he got out for duck in the very first over of the game. His partner Cook and No 3 Garry Balance also followed him soon. The West Indian pacers were bowling in very good channels initially. They bowled up to batsman and the seam movement had done the trick for them. At Lunch England were reduced to 49 for three.
After losing three top order batsmen cheaply, Bell and Root decided to stuck around. They showed some outstanding skills, determinations and applications which helped England to fight its way out of trouble. The 177-run partnership for the fourth wicket was instrumental for England’s recovery process. The second session was wicketless and productive for the visitors as they reached 167 for three at Tea.
West Indies finally got some breathing space when Taylor managed to get Root played on in the 64th over of the innings. They were expecting to build on that opportunity, but Stokes, who is making a comeback in the team had some other ideas. The southpaw came out firing with a counter attacking knock. He played his shots freely and put the bowlers under immense pressure. Especially against spinner Sulieman Benn, Stokes was in a merciless mood. He hit some easy boundaries against the second new ball as well.
Whereas Bell on the other end was rock solid. Deservingly his reached his hundred. This was his 22nd Test and first one outside England since 2012 in this format. Meanwhile Stokes also scored his half-century which took just 59 balls. In the second last over over the day Roach produced a gemm of a delivery which claimed the price wicket of Bell. At Stumps Stokes remained not out on 71 and night watchman James Tredwell was giving him company.
For the Windies it was day of disappointment. After getting the initial advantage they softened their grip and allowed England to slip through. Some inconsistent bowling and followed by some drop chances in the field did not help their cause. So new coach Phil Simmons now has to do some motivational job with the West Indies boys to help them to make a strong comeback in the game on Day Two. England on the other hand would like to continue their good work.
England 341 for 5 (Ian Bell 143, Joe Root 83, Ben Stokes 71* Jerome Taylor 2 for 79, Kemar Roach 2 for 66) vs West Indies.
(Sandipan Banerjee is a reporter at CricketCountry. Cricket has been the biggest passion for him since his childhood. So, when it came to choosing his career, he chose to turn his passion into his profession. Apart from cricket he likes mountain trekking, river rafting, and photography. His twitter handle is @im_sandipan)
The above article is reproduced with permission from cricketcountry.com