Bairstow battles back after early losses to West Indies quick bowlers

Reviewed by Clayton Goodwin

England pressed on as the day progressed to take control of the first day of the First Apex Test against West Indies at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, North Sound, Antigua recovering from early losses to finish on 268-6. Proceedings started with celebration and condolence. To the honours for Sir Vivian, whose 70th birthday was the previous day, was added the triple tributes to the recent passing of Sonny Ramadhin, Shane Warne and Rod Marsh. The players made certain that the cricket, tough and attritional though it was, brought credit to their memory. It was, indeed, a day of fluctuating fortunes in which England, after being apparently at the mercy of the West Indies quicker bowlers in the morning, fought back to hold a strong, if not impregnable position, at the close.

Jonny Bairstow (109 n.o.), who completed his century with a four towards the close of play, was the hero of the day. He came in when the pressure was at its greatest and in partnership with Ben Stokes and then Ben Foakes blunted the attack and took the battle to the home team. West Indies were not helped by missing several chances in the field. That seemed hardly to matter in the first half-hour when both openers, debutant Alex Lees (4) and Zak Crawley (8), were dismissed with only 17 runs on the board. The former was set up by Kemar Roach (2-71) bowling several balls away from the left-handed batsman and then bringing one back to have him plumb l.b.w.: the latter inside-edged a ball from Jayden Seales (2-64) between bat and wicket for Joshua da Silva to make a spectacular catch left-handed and only a fraction above the ground as it sped towards leg-side. Then, one ball after he had been dropped by Jermaine Blackwood, captain Joe Root (13) failed to play at a ball from Seales which clipped the top of his stumps. 

Blackwood made amends by catching Dan Lawrence (20) off Jason Holder (2-15). England went into lunch at 57-4. After the interval Stokes and Bairstow settled first to grinding down the bowling. Stokes (36) enjoyed a stroke of luck when Holder failed to move as he edged Alzarri Joseph (0-69) for four at catchable height. The batsman was just starting to open up when with the partnership at 67 runs his attempted drive edged a delivery from Seales into his stumps. Foakes started with earnest intent and was starting to outpace Bairstow when they came in to tea at 145-5. Honours were even, but Bairstow was beginning to come into his own as the bowlers tired with the new ball.

Bairstow dominated the final session. He survived a confident shout for l.b.w. by left-arm spinner Veerasamy Persaul (0-35) – on review the ball was seen to have hit the edge of the bat. Just one run short of the century partnership Foakes (42) was l.b.w. to Holder at 214-6. Bairstow by now was in full flow. There was a scare when he was 95 and a drive by Chris Woakes (24 n.o.)  grazed the bowler’s outstretched hand to break the wicket. Bairstow, however, had regained his ground. From the next ball Woakes was dropped by Holder in the slips, but got back the equilibrium by hitting the next for four. Soon afterwards Bairstow reached his hundred before West Indies took the second new ball. He closed the day with a splendid off-side four from Seales.

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