Bairstow hundred overshadows Windies’ bright start

West Indies squandered a golden opportunity to take a firm foothold in the first Test after Jonny Bairstow struck an imperious, unbeaten hundred to power England, on a compelling opening day at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium here Tuesday.

Marquee seamer Kemar Roach snatched two wickets in an explosive opening spell to help reduce England to 48 for four before lunch, but Bairstow’s 109 not out — his eighth Test century and first against West Indies — hauled England back from the brink.

With help from wicketkeeper Ben Foakes who made 42, all-rounder Ben Stokes who chipped in with 36, and Chris Woakes who hit an unbeaten 24, England finished the day strongly on 268 for six, after dominating the two final sessions.

Roach failed to rediscover his magic after lunch and ended with two for 71, while fellow seamers Jason Holder (2-15) and 20-year-old Jayden Seales (2-64) also picked up two wickets apiece.

“The pitch obviously played a lot better than we expected. We’re not accustomed to the pitches being like that here in Antigua,” Roach said afterwards.

“We started well but I guess we lost it a little bit after lunch and probably after tea, but I feel six wickets in a day on a pretty flat pitch, we’re still happy with that.”

The 33-year-old Roach wasted little time in tucking into England’s top order after the visitors won the toss and chose to bat, knocking over debutant left-hander Alex Lees for four with only 12 runs on the board in the third over of the morning.

He set Lees up with a sequence of away-swingers before bringing one back sharply to earn a solid lbw decision.

Seales followed up in the very next over, getting Zak Crawley (8) to inside-edge an ambitious drive, wicketkeeper Joshua Da Silva pulling off a brilliant one-handed catch diving low to his left.

Captain Joe Root (13), in at three, punched three fours and was quickly finding his stride when Roach accounted for the tourists’ talisman with the hour approaching.

Dropped at third slip by vice-captain Jermaine Blackwood off the previous delivery, Root shouldered arms to the next ball which came back just enough to clip off-stump, and end his brief 14-ball stay.

Holder then put the finishing touches on the morning’s proceedings, 40 minutes before lunch, when he got Dan Lawrence (20) to spar at one that straightened, for Blackwood to claim a regulation catch at second slip.

Unfortunately however, that marked the end of the home side’s enterprise as Bairstow took charge, anchoring three successive partnerships to help England claw their way back from 57 for four at lunch.

Fresh from an unbeaten century against the President’s XI last week Bairstow once again exuded authority, lashing 17 fours off 216 balls en route to his second hundred in as many Tests, following his 113 in Sydney last January.

He grafted his way to his first fifty off 128 deliveries and — buoyed by a DRS reprieve after being given out, caught at the wicket off left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul on 59 — he motored to triple figures off only another 62 balls.

Importantly, Bairstow added 67 for the fifth wicket with Stokes, and 99 for the sixth wicket with Foakes, before further frustrating West Indies in an unbroken, seventh-wicket stand of 54 with Woakes as England gathered 88 runs in the second session and a further 123 runs in the third.

“Jonny played really well but I think we could’ve been a little tighter in terms of not allowing him to score, particularly on both sides,” Holder lamented.

Seales claimed the only wicket to fall in the second session, that of Stokes, the left-hander counting four fours in a 95-ball knock before having his leg-stump pegged back by a full-length delivery in the second over after the drinks break.

On 145 for five at tea England’s lone casualty thereafter was the wicket of Foakes, the right-hander entertaining with eight fours in his first Test innings in 12 months before playing around one angled in from Holder, and falling lbw inside the last hour.

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