A brilliant unbeaten hundred from Joe Root put England in a strong position on day three in St Lucia.
Starting the day on 19/0, 142 runs ahead of Windies, England got off to the worst possible start. Keemo Paul – playing in place of the suspended Jason Holder – bowled the first ball of the day, a loosener, full on leg-stump, that Rory Burns clipped straight to Alzarri Joseph at square leg.
If Windies had any hope of clawing their way back into the contest, they needed early wickets in an attempt to run through the England batting line-up. Burns’ early dismissal brought Joe Denly – playing just his second Test – to the crease to join the out-of-form Keaton Jennings. Windies had an opening.
Windies were soon given a chance to claim a second early wicket. Denly, who misread the bounce of a Gabriel short ball, handed Shimron Hetmyer a simple catch in the slips that was inexplicably shelled. Gabriel was understandably furious to see his efforts go unrewarded.
#WIvENG Injury Update: Keemo Paul has suffered a right quadricep strain and is unlikely to return to field before tea.— Windies Cricket (@windiescricket) February 11, 2019
It would prove to be a costly drop for Hetmyer as Denly got over the chance to bat with real fluency and made batting look easier than any player on either side so far in the Test. Windies suffered another blow early on as Paul pulled up chasing a ball headed towards the boundary and had to be stretchered off the field, leaving the Windies down on bowling options.
At the other end, Jennings was struggling for rhythm but, to his credit, was stubbornly surviving and giving few chances. Then in a moment that perhaps epitomised his recent fortunes, he was on his way back to the pavilion for 23. A full Joseph delivery, way down the leg-side hit the back of his leg and trickled to the base of the stumps, dislodging a bail. Desperately unlucky for Jennings.
Denly continued to bat well until he misread the bounce of a short and wide Gabriel delivery and feathered an edge to Dowrich behind the stumps. He fell for 69, a good innings but not the huge score he’d have been eyeing up that would have cemented his spot in the team.
As the day progressed, the lack of Paul as a fourth pace-bowling option was noticeable. Roston Chase had to undertake a significant amount of the bowling as Joseph, Roach and Gabriel rotated from the other end. Skipper Kraigg Brathwaite decided to bowl some of his own part-time off-breaks that although were accurate, never seriously threatened Root or Jos Buttler in the middle-order. As the Windies intensity dropped, misfields and sloppiness crept into their play as England’s captain and vice-captain happily accumulated with minimal risk.
Batting looked comfortable until Windies took the second new ball. Suddenly, life became tricky for the batsmen. Kemar Roach bowled a peach to dismiss Jos Buttler for 56, while Root was troubled by Gabriel. But, Root was resilient and grafted through the tough period and after a barren first five innings of the series, recorded his 16thTest century and his third in his last seven Tests.
Root (111*) and Ben Stokes (29*) got through to stumps unscathed with England on 325/4, 448 runs ahead of Windies and well on track for a consolation win.