Ben Stokes rides his luck to complete compelling century

Close of play report, Headingley day one: England 258 West Indies 19-1 (Brathwaite 13*, Bishoo 1*)

Ben Stokes’s desire to attack is beginning to look more like a carefully considered approach than a compulsion. The England all-rounder could have perished on a number of occasions on the first afternoon on day one at Headingley but, when his wicket was not being endangered, his commitment to a series of stinging strokes threatened to rip the filling out of a much improved West Indies performance.

Even when he was finally dismissed, after completing an exhilarating hundred, his intention to go on the offensive was undimmed, allowing the West Indies captain to claim some sort of psychological victory.

On 98, Stokes, perhaps more desperate to get to three figures than he needed to be, dragged one from a yard.outside off from Kemar Roach to provide a simple catch at mid-on, which his fellow paceman Shannon Gabriel unforgivably put down. Roach was incandescent, especially as Stokes then drove into the covers for the two he required to bring up a sixth Test century from his 122nd ball.

Two overs later Jason Holder took Roach out of the attack and asked Gabriel, who had bowled wonderfully earlier, to redeem himself. It took only one ball. Stokes pulled at a short delivery and edged behind. Words were exchanged by Stokes and one or two of his opponents as he trooped off.

Stokes could not complain if he was given the slightest of send-offs. The Durham all-rounder might have been out twice when in partnership with Joe Root, first when he flat-batted at a wide, full delivery from Roach and, despite scraping the ground, seemed to edge a catch to Shane Dowrich behind the stumps. Holder, inexplicably, chose to not review. Stokes was on nine at the time. He was still short of double figures when the same bowler got one to fly off a thick edge to second slip at shoulder height. Kraigg Brathwaite spilled the chance.

Shortly before tea he mispulled and the ball looped over the slip cordon and fell safely.

In between times, though, he unfurled emphatic cover drives, a beautifully fluent, if aerial, chip through mid-wicket, a straight drive of calculated brilliiance and a front foot pull of brutal ferocity. There were also cuts aplenty, crunching shots surely with the sole intention of bruising fielders’ hands.

He was even moving across his stumps to clip to the leg-side from well outside the off stump like a left-handed Viv Richards.

Stokes, you feel, in his utter commitment to each stroke, is only ever a couple of shots from inhabiting ” the zone”, that perfect amalgam of mind and body that sportsmen are forever seeking but too rarely locating.

On 45 at tea, he had added 40 in the 40 minutes afterwards as the score raced from 155-6 to 215 without further loss, his approach gradually wearing off on Moeen Ali, who began to find his own inner aggressor. Too intimately, as it turned out, as the Worcestershire all-rounder skewed to cover.

Stuart Broad was yorked by Gabriel in the same over that he dismissed Stokes and Chris Woakes added a useful 23 before becoming Roach’s fourth victim as England were bowled out for 258 – disappointing after winning the toss but with conditions growing gloomier by the minute, and West Indies’ brittle batting to come, by no means a disaster.

It gave Jimmy Anderson and Broad 12 overs to try to get the breakthrough and sure enough, Anderson produced a beauty to force the unimpressive Powell to edge to Cook at slip.

Earlier, Gabriel’s intimidating presence had appeared to give renewed confidence to his new-ball partner Roach. Both bowled well, with far more discipline in line and length than had been apparent from the pace attack in Birmingham.

They found significant seam movement, and in the case of Holder, swing, on what looked like a true pitch and if it was too much for the experienced Alastair Cook, it was even more troublesome for those looking to force their way on to the plane to Australia.

Cook edged a ball angled across him to third slip off Gabriel before Tom Westley was hit right in front on the back leg by Roach. That was speared into him from over the wicket and when Roach switched to round, he got Mark Stoneman to aim a wild drive, which caught his inside edge.

Root had an early escape himself as he edged a simple catch to Kyle Hope off Gabriel but it was floored by the man at first slip.

He had to be watchful in the period after lunch but he finally prospered as Devendra Bishoo, the leg spinner preferred to the ineffective Miguel Cummins, was belatedly brought into the attack. Pitching too short too often, he kept protection on the extra cover boundary but Root and Stokes were happy to milk him for singles or twos before the Yorkshireman opted to sweep against the spin.

He moved to a 31st fifty – and a twelfth in successive Tests, which took him level with AB de Villiers’ record – before he aimed a slog sweep at Bishoo and toe-ended a catch to Jermain Blackwood at slip.

When Jonny Bairstow went as well, shortly before tea when Holder claimed a low catch at slip, which.was upheld by the third official when the umpires signalled a dismissal, it was left to Stokes to try to regain the initiative, which he did in some style.

Tea report (day 1 Headingley): England 155-6 (Alif 3* Stokes 45*)v West Indies

Joe Root and Ben Stokes had reason to be grateful to the cricket gods as renewed discipline from the West Indies attack gave way to profligacy in the field, the tourists allowing a promising position to slip through their hands – almost literally – at Headingley on day one.

But the wickets of the England captain and Jonny Bairstow in the last half hour before tea brought some solace for earlier failings and emphasised the improvement in performance – and perhaps in resilience..

Root matched AB De Villiers by notching up a fifty for a twelfth successive Test but he had been badly missed at first slip when on just eight, while Stokes twice got lucky breaks in the afternoon.

Root, who hit 59 in an unusually watchful innings, had already started to walk when Kieran Powell put him down off Shannon Gabriel; Stokes escaped first when Jason Holder failed to review what appeared to be a straightforward edge from Kemar Roach, whose temper was not improved when the left-handed all rounder was dropped at second slip.

It was wasteful from the West Indies, who had roared back with some fire in their bellies after the criticism dished out from most quarters following their battering in the pink ball match at Edgbaston.

Gabriel, an imposing figure at the best of times, added an element of intimidation to the West Indies’ fast-bowling unit as he returned to replace Alzarri Joseph, while Kemar Roach found a much more consistent line, especially when bowling round the wicket to the left-handers.

Devendra Bishoo was the other change to the tourists’ line-up, the leg-spinner replacing the inefective Miguel Cummins.

Questions about the England top order again went unanswered as Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley and Dawid Malan fell cheaply but it was Alastair Cook who gave West Indies their first moment of joy, when he edged Gabriel to third slip.

Westley was hit right in front on the back leg by Roach angling into him from over the wicket, then Stoneman got an inside edge to a drive off the same bowler from round the wicket and was taken by Shane Bowrich.

Root resolved to make his opponents pay after his let-off but Gabriel and Roach were finding regular movement off the seam – and Holder occasional swing – despite the pitch looking flat and true and the weather clear.

As the day grew more overcast, apart from a wide one apiece from Gabriel and Holder that Root and Malan respectively cut over the infield for fours, England were left waiting in vain for loose balls.

Malan eventually drove loosely at Holder and edged on to his wicket while Stokes, on his arrival, looked good when on the attack, clipping aerially but with beautiful timing through mid- wicket and striding out to drive through the covers.

Root went to a 31st Test fifty as he began to milk Bishoo, belatedly introduced to the attack but bowling too short, before the England captain, beaten by a superb turning delivery when the leg spinner pitched up, perished when he tried to fetch one from too far outside off stump and toe-edged to Jermaine Blackwood at slip.

Roach’s figures began to suffer unfairly as, when Stokes was not being reprieved, he was generally striking boundaries, and had moved to 45 by tea. Another pull off Gabriel looped fortunately over the slip cordon, but Bairstow got no such luck when he edged to Gabriel low to Holder, whose low catch had to be reviewed.

Lunchtime report: England 61-3 v West Indies

All England need to do is win the toss, bat, and they’ll win the game at a canter, that’s what they said. But what do they know? Fuck all, as it turns out.

Joe Root managed to do the first two easily enough, but when it came to the simple matter of putting runs on the board, England faltered, as a newly-disciplined West indies bowling attack churned through the porous England top order. Cook nicked off, Stoneman inside edged to the keeper, and Westly, a batsman with no weaknesses according to the august Times of London, essayed a beautiful off drive without actually hitting the ball, and was plumb LBW.

Roach and Gabriel bowled with great discipline and no little skill as the return to a sensibly-hued ball reignited the rhythm that was so sorely missed at Edgbaston. A shortage of four balls kept the batsmen in watchful mode, and had a simple catch offered by Root been taken at slip, England would have been four down at the interval. But those who were bemoaning a mismatched series will be mollified by a lunch score of 63-3.

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