It has happened at last. England skipper Alastair Cook reached the three figure mark in Tests, two years after he last achieved the landmark. Batting with his trademark composure, the left-hander added to the two fifties he had registered in Grenada. Usually, when a batsman gets a hundred on the opening day, his side is in the comfortable position. But, this was not quite the case at Bridgetown. West Indies bowlers kept picking up wickets at regular intervals, including that of Cook in the final over the day. With the visitors at 240 for 7, Windies would be the happier of the teams.
West Indian bowlers were impressive right throughout the day. Shannon Gabriel began the good work for the hosts, inflicting on the struggling Jonathan Trott a third duck in the series. Trott needed a score to resurrect his career, but low on confidence, he awkwardly fended a short delivery into the hands of Veerasammy Permaul. Trott who has only recently returned from stress related illness might not get another chance for England, it is believed, unless he can shine in the second innings. He just hasn’t looked the part in West Indies though he has got a half-century.
Jason Holder, meanwhile, continued his impressive run for the Windies. He dealt England with two major blows. He cleaned up Gary Ballance with a full length delivery for 18, finding the gap between bat and pad, and soon had Ian Bell caught and bowled, to leave England reeling at 38 for 3. The in-form Joe Root came in and looked completely at ease, hitting a few crisp boundaries. But, he perished, edging one in the keeper’s hand off Permaul while playing off the backfoot, leaving England in further trouble at 91 for 4.
Even as England kept losing wickets, Cook held one end up. It was a typical knock from the England skipper as he put his head down, and dug. There were his trademark leaves outside the off stump, and the dead bat defence was seen in abundance as well. After having occupied the crease for 258 deliveries, Cook was finally rewarded with his 26th Test hundred, as he clipped Gabriel off his toes. It was more a cause of relief than elation. Cook had been getting a number of fifties, but for someone known for raking up big scores, this was a drought which had to end.
Cook found good support in Moeen Ali, who got a fluent half-century. However, just when the fight back was assuming dangerous proportions, Cook ran out Ali following a mix-up. As a disappointed Ali headed back to the pavilion, England had lost half their side for under 200. Ben Stokes looked for during his 22, but late cut Gabriel into the hands of gully. England would still have been satisfied had Cook stayed till the end. He almost did, but in the last over of the day, he played a tired cut off Marlon Samuels to be caught behind. Cook’s dismissal was reflective of England’s performance. They fought hard, only to give it away.
--By A Cricket Correspondent