A century from Ian Bell has put England firmly in control in the Caribbean as they closed on 341 for five after an early wobble in the opening Test Match in Antigua.
The veteran, playing in his 106th Test entered the action at the start of the ninth over with England two down and it soon became three with only 34 on the board but along with Joe Root, he stabilised the innings before accelerating to reach his 22nd Test century.
A 177-run partnership was exactly what the three lions needed in James Anderson’s 100th Test. Root played a crucial role and fell just short of a hundred of his own while Ben Stokes had a late cameo and ended 71 not out at stumps on day one.
Anderson was not the only one in the spotlight ahead of the toss with the returning Jonathan Trott reaching a landmark of his own. The Warwickshire man has not featured for England since returning home from the 2013/14 Ashes with a stress related illness and was handed his 50th cap ahead of play at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
The first Test selection since August was bound to be an interesting one with Alastair Cook and Peter Moores deciding to back Trott over Yorkshire’s Adam Lyth while James Tredwell got the nod over Adil Rashid.
The aforementioned Stokes came into the side in the absence of Moeen Ali with Chris Jordan preferred to Liam Plunkett and Mark Wood.
England lost the toss and struggled from the start as Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach applied the pressure to the top order as Trott (0) and Cook (11) both departed inside the opening eight overs as runs were hard to come by.
Jason Holder was next into the attack and it didn’t take him long to find the edge of Gary Ballance who fought his way to 10 off 46 balls as Root joined Bell to change the momentum on the opening day.
The pair steadied the ship and reached lunch at 49 for three but it was the afternoon session where the damage was done. 118 runs were scored without loss as Bell and then Root passed 50 for the tourists.
The Yorkshireman was then dropped in the first over after tea but his luck then ran out when he edged the ball onto his own stumps to give Taylor his second wicket of the day with Root departing for 83.
MOVING THROUGH THE GEARS
The vibrant Stokes entered the fray and he was keen to increase the tempo and he did just that as he reached his half-century in just 59 balls. The Durham all-rounder wasn’t content though as he continued to race through the gears and will start day two on 71 not out.
However, he will not be joined by Bell after he edged behind in the dying moments of the evening session to depart for a superb 143 off 256 balls. Roach was the man to strike as the new ball finally worked its magic for the hosts with Denesh Ramdin taking the catch after a beauty from the West Indian quick.
James Tredwell wandered out as England’s night watchman but he didn’t face a ball as Stokes played out a maiden to end the day on 341 for five to end a positive day for the tourists.