Old cast Cook, Root shine on pink-ball’s England premiere

On the occasion of the very first day-night Test in England, hundreds for both Alastair Cook and Joe Root put the hosts firmly in command at Edgbaston against Windies. On as flat a Test pitch as you are likely to find, and with the sun shining for most of the day, England finished on 348 for 3 as the tourists’ bowlers struggled to maintain consistency and control. It already looks a long way back for them.

Cook and Root showed all their class during a partnership of 248 after debutant Mark Stoneman, who had been presented with his first Test cap by Jonathan Trott before play, and Tom Westley had been dismissed within the first eight overs. There were a few plays and misses and a couple of edges through the slip cordon from Root and Cook but England’s two best batsmen were largely untroubled.

Some of that was to do with the flatness of the pitch, which had not had extra grass left on it to keep the pink ball shiny as has happened for previous day-night Tests. But the Windies also made England’s task far easier than it could have been with an ill-disciplined display. Only one of the four frontline bowlers used conceded less than three-and-a-half runs an over and England scored a remarkable 53 boundaries (plus two lots of four leg-byes) in the 90 overs of play.

Root was the first to reach his century, his 13th in Tests, during the afternoon session. The England captain displayed increasing fluency after a scratchy start as the WIndies bowlers swung and seamed the pink ball early. Root’s timing was off which provoked a number of puzzled looks at his own bat but he soon grew in confidence given some easy pickings from Jason Holder and Alzzari Joseph early on.

Root unfurled his full range of shots as the day developed. Two on-drives in the middle session of the day were pure class and timing and he played all round the wicket, which tells you much about both his talent and the Windies bowling. Root’s fluency was evident by the fact his hundred came off just 139 balls. Remarkably, it is the 11th consecutive Test he has made at least a half-century. He is just one match behind the record holder, South Africa’s AB de Villiers, who managed it in 12 consecutive matches.

Cook, Root’s predecessor as captain, looked in good rhythm from the start, hitting three fours in Alzzari Joseph’s second over with the new ball. In typical Cook fashion, he was particularly severe on anything on his pads but he also drove sweetly, a sure sign he is in good form. He brought up his 31st Test hundred in the final session, his first since the 130 he made in Rajkot during the winter, nine Tests ago. A collector of records, Cook has now also scored more Test runs in England than anyone else.

The Windies had started well with Kemar Roach, in his first Test for 18 months, bowling Stoneman for eight with a beautiful delivery which nipped away from the left-hander. Westley went soon after, LBW playing across a full ball from the impressive Miguel Cummins which was originally given not out. The visitors reviewed and it was shown to be smashing in to middle stump so Westley had to go. It is becoming a familiar dismissal for England’s number three.

At that stage, England were 39 for 2 – given their top order woes a not unusual position – and the tourists had a sniff of making some real inroads after losing the toss and being asked to field. That they failed to take the opportunity was down, largely, to their own shoddy performance. The visiting bowlers failed to give Holder any semblance of control, bowling both sides of the wicket and offering up far too many boundary balls, with Joseph in particular wayward.

It was not until the lights took hold in the last hour that the Windies looked more dangerous. They found some reverse swing and that did for Root who was bowled by a brilliant in-swinger from Roach for 136. Dawid Malan, under pressure for his place, was dropped at slip shortly after off Kraigg Brathwaite and faced a hostile spell from Roach. In need of runs, it was just Malan’s luck to have to start his innings at the most difficult time of day.

Cook remained steadfast, bringing up his 150 just before the close with a characteristic clip off his pads, a pillar of calm as artificial light took over from natural and the 21,649 strong Edgbaston crowd moved in to full voice in the final session. The atmospherics, with the floodlights set against the dark sky and the pink ball being used, were quite spectacular.

By then, the Windies had taken the new ball but used it wastefully, offering too many scoring opportunities and bowling neither a consistent line nor length. Malan, who moved nicely and assuredly at the crease for his 28 not out, and Cook, who will resume on 153 tomorrow, negotiated what could have been a potentially tricky period safely enough and have so far put on 61 for the fourth wicket.

To sum up a miserable day for the tourists, Holder had to leave the field late on after suffering some stiffness in his groin while bowling. He did return to the field but the long-term prognosis will not be known until the morning. It added more woe to what was a pretty grim day all-round for Windies

Brief scores: England 348/3 (Alastair Cook 153*, Joe Root 136; Kemar Roach 2-72) vs Windies


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