Roach, Seales give West Indies quick start but Bairstow stops them in their tracks

Kemar Roach and Jayden Seales got Kraigg Brathwaite’s West Indies quickly out of the blocks on the first day of the first match of the Apex Three-Test Series. But it was the in-form who built three successive partnerships to ensure that Joe Root’s England endured to the last, recovering from a precarious 48 for 4 before lunch to reach 286 for 6 by the close of play.

Bairstow, a swashbuckling veteran of 81 Tests, struck 17 fours in reaching an unbeaten 109, his eighth Test century. But it was far from being a typically rambunctious innings. His first 50 came off 127 balls with eight fours but he added nine more boundaries in the second fifty, which came off only an additional 63 balls.

Photo: England middle-order batsman Jonny Bairstow celebrates a century, his eighth, against the West Indies in Test action at Antigua on 8 March 2022.
(Copyright Getty Images)

Coming in after Jason Holder had Dan Lawrence caught by Jermaine Blackwood at third slip in the 16th over, the multiple-six-hitting wicketkeeper/batsman took only five runs off his first 30 balls to settle England’s nerves in the pre-lunch session.

Earlier, after Root won the toss, Roach went round the wicket in the third over to spear one in at debutant Alex Lees’ pads. No reprieve on the review. Plumb LBW. And in the next over, Joshua Da Silva flung himself low to his left to pouch an inside edge that flew off Zak Crawley’s bat as he drove at Seales.

West Indian elation peaked five overs later when Root, who already has 23 Test centuries to his credit and a whole lot to prove on this tour, shouldered arms to a Roach off-cutter. His judgement was flawed; it took the top of off-stump.

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But from a shaky 57 for 4 at lunch, Bairstow and Ben Stokes (36 off 95, 4 x 4) found relative prosperity after the interval, assisted by an overly generous West Indian skipper who kept his strike bowlers in reserve. Stokes too had started slowly, needing 14 balls to get off the mark and 45 for the five runs he scored before lunch.

Photo: West Indies pacer Kemar Roach (left) exults after trapping England opening batsman Alex Lees LBW in Test action in Antigua on 8 March 2022.
(via CWI Media)

Post-interval, the pair pushed their fifth-wicket partnership to 67 by the 40th over, with Alzarri Joseph (0/69) and Seales in the firing line.

Replacing Joseph after eight overs, it was not Roach who delivered the breakthrough. It came from Seales who produced a ball that swung late and cannoned into the left-hander’s leg stump off the inside edge.

Next in was Ben Foakes, who proved an equally tough nut to crack, slamming eight fours in the 42 he contributed to a 99-run stand with Bairstow.

Trying to separate the pair, Brathwaite turned to spin for the first time with the ball 47 overs old. But although Veerasammy Permaul sent down 13 overs of his left-arm orthodox fare before the new ball became due, he could make no impression, finishing with 0/35 on an unhelpful track.

It was the recall of Holder (16-9-15-2) after tea, whose figures at the interval read 11-7-10-1, that finally accounted for the freshly called-up wicketkeeper, trapped plumb in front by the former skipper’s second ball of a new spell.

Photo: West Indies all-rounder Jason Holder is very focused on the job at hand.
(via Cricket World)

With Stokes gone and Foakes gone, enter Woakes. No joke, folks.

And although Brathwaite himself served up a couple of overs of what the television commentator called ‘slow, gentle off-breaks, almost lobs’ to speed up the arrival of the new ball, Bairstow and Woakes survived to fight another day.

Seales (2/64) and Roach (2/71) managed to get some swing but they failed to enjoy the same success as they had in the morning session with the original new ball.

When play resumes at 10am tomorrow, the West Indians will have to find a way to keep the overnight pair from extending their partnership too far. To do so, the West Indian skipper may have to be persuaded that, as one insightful television commentator warned, ‘Test cricket is not about waiting for something to happen but about taking the opportunities you create”.

Albeit not a huge score, 300 won’t be easy to get against a team that has everything to prove after their last very forgettable outing.

Photo: England batsman Jonny Bairstow on the go against the West Indies in the first Test of the Apex Series in Antigua on 8 March 2022.
(Copyright Gareth Copley/ Getty Images)

So Brathwaite’s men will also have to find a way to build a few solid partnerships themselves, a challenge that has not infrequently proven to be beyond them in the recent past.


Toss: England

England 1st Inns: 286 for 6 (86 overs) (Jonny Bairstow 109*, Ben Foakes 42, Ben Stokes 36, Chris Woakes 24*; Kemar Roach 16-2-71-2, Jason Holder 16-9-15-2, Jayden Seales 19-3-64-2)

West Indies XI: Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shamarh Brooks, Nkrumah Bonner, Jermaine Blackwood, Jason Holder, Joshua Da Silva, Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Veerasammy Permaul, Jayden Seales.

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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