ANTIGUA: Ian Bell’s solid 143 helped England move into a position of strength on the opening day of the first Test against West Indies on Monday.
Bell, who came in to bat with the scorecard reading 34 for 3, formed a vital association with Joe Root. The fourth-wicket pair added 177 runs to lead the revival after the West Indies pacers did the early running on a batting deck at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua.
Bell respected the early excellence of Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach and Jason Holder early on, before bringing out his trademark strokes in the remaining two sessions. His 22nd Test ton was studded with 20 fours and a six. More importantly, he occupied the crease for 342 minutes.
Bell looked good for more till he was undone by Roach with the second new ball in the penultimate over of the day. That Bell played the role of an aggressor was mainly due to the industrious Root, who made a sturdy 81 to keep the bowlers at bay on a hot afternoon.
The pair came together within the first hour of play as the West Indies pacers justified Denesh Ramdin’s decision to bowl first. Ben Stokes, the allrounder, added more miles to West Indies’ weary legs as he made a stroke-filled unbeaten 71 at almost a run-a-ball. In the process, he easily overshadowed Bell in a 130-run stand for the fifth wicket.
The start to the day was anything but promising for England, who lost Jonathan Trott for a duck. Trott, making a comeback after recovering from a stress-related illness, edged a delivery from Taylor as Darren Bravo took a regulation catch at first slip in the day’s first over.
Alastair Cook, the England captain, lasted another 30 minutes before a tentative prod off Roach went onto the stumps. That extended his run without a Test century to 32 innings.
Gary Ballance was England’s other casualty of the morning, the attacking left-hand batsman edged a dull and wide delivery to Bravo at second slip.
Sulieman Benn, preferred as the lone specialist spinner over Devendra Bishoo despite the legbreak bowler’s outstanding domestic season Guyana, however failed to sustain the tempo of the faster emn as he conceded 85 runs off 26 wicketless overs.
James Anderson, England’ frontline seamer, was earlier in the day awarded his 100th Test cap, which made him the 13th England cricketer to reach the landmark. He needs four more wickets to surpass Sir Ian Botham’s record of 383 scalps, the most by an Englishman.