Ben Stokes fires a hundred and Joe Root equals record but England still labour

August 25 2017, 6.02pmUpdated: August 26 2017, 7.13pm
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Centurion Ben Stokes and record-equalling captain Joe Root took advantage of dismal West Indian catching but England were still dismissed for 258 on day one of the second Investec Test thanks to a bowling display of pace, pride and purpose.

The Windies grassed four regulation chances at Headingley, which came at a combined cost of 142, but still vastly exceeded expectations having seen their very worthiness as tourists called into question in the wake of last week’s lame capitulation in the day/night Test at Edgbaston.

Stokes made a devil-may-care 100, with Root’s 59 equalling AB de Villiers’ world record of half-centuries in 12 consecutive Tests, but the pair should have gone for just nine and eight respectively.

A newly-focused Kemar Roach and the recalled Shannon Gabriel took four wickets each, exposing familiar frailties in England’s top order, but saw much of their hard work tossed to the turf by Kieran Powell and Kraigg Brathwaite in the slips.

Gabriel himself followed with a shocker at mid-on and wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich joined in late on, but by then England’s tail was already in free-fall.

Stokes’ boundary-laden ton – with 68 coming in fours – proved the frenetic centre-piece of the innings while Root continued a relentlessly reliable scoring streak which dates back to Dhaka last October.

That only three of those have been converted into hundreds is a well-known point of concern to Root but England’s real issue as they approach an Ashes winter is the glaring and repeated inability to fill positions at opener, number three and number five.

Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley and Dawid Malan all failed their latest auditions, contributing 30 between them against opponents who were considered impossibly easy pickings after their meltdown in Birmingham.

Root eagerly announced his intention to bat first after winning the toss under bright skies at his home ground and was surely imagining better than 61 for three at lunch.

But that was the least the West Indies deserved thanks to a tone-setting burst from Roach and Gabriel. Alastair Cook faced more than 400 balls for his 243 last time out but was first man down here, nicking Gabriel for 11 to continue a modest record in Yorkshire.

That brought together Stoneman and Westley, two Test newcomers who emphatically failed to advance their fragile credentials for an Ashes spot this winter.

Westley made three, a tally which still flattered him, before Roach slammed a fast, full delivery into his back pad to win an lbw so clear the batsmen did not even raise the prospect of a referral with his partner.

Stoneman at least threatened to find his feet, facing 47 balls for his 19, but a loose drive and an inside edge to Dowrich was an unedifying way to go.

Had Powell gathered the simplest of slip catches to add the prize scalp of Root the scoreboard would have read 44 for four but somehow the ball squirmed free and the skipper ticked along to 24 by the break.

Malan imploded early in the third over of the afternoon, cannoning Jason Holder inelegantly into off stump, but Root moved serenely towards his special 50 – bringing it up by slashing Devendra Bishoo to the ropes.

If his celebration was muted given the significance, his frustration at getting out to the same bowler soon after was anything but. An ill-conceived paddle sweep looped to slip and he flailed his bat several times during an angry walk to the pavilion.

By then Stokes had already been dropped by Brathwaite on nine, the fielder not only shelling the shoulder-high chance but also diverting it to the boundary for good measure.

Initially, at least, the all-rounder batted frantically, mixing mis-hits and body blows with some muscular boundaries. He did not really look in control until he reached 50 with a brutal strike through extra cover but thereafter he unfurled a highlights reel of swivel pulls, sweeps and drives threaded between fielders.

He was still two short of his sixth Test hundred when he clubbed Roach straight to mid-on, where Gabriel fumbled an easy catch embarrassingly. Stokes reached three figures off the very next ball but did not go further as Gabriel made amends by finding the outside edge.

Moeen Ali (22) and Chris Woakes (23) made brisk contributions but the lower order were dealt with professionally, Dowrich’s drop of Stuart Broad notwithstanding.

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