Strauss sets the tone as England seize early control

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

England 301-3 West Indies

Two days is an eternity in Test cricket. From the utter, desperate shambles of Friday a new spirit was born yesterday. The dear old Antigua Recreation Ground was buzzing, alive with expectation and goodwill.

There was, too, a new England. Into the decrepit but endlessly beguiling setting they stepped, bristling with good intentions. For once, they were not simply paving the road to hell.

The tourists dominated the first day of the third Test against the West Indies, the tone set immaculately by their captain, Andrew Strauss. In compiling his 15th Test hundred he ensured that the travails of Kingston, where England were bowled out for 51 in the first match of the series, were cast off, if not laid to rest.

Strauss, magisterial by then, was out minutes before the close for 169, miscuing his umpteenth pull. But the day belonged to him and England. They lost only three wickets in scoring 301. The pitch, so hurriedly prepared, was blameless. Although the West Indies might not agree, given the lassitude of their play, the hastily organised return to the ARG was a triumph. It felt truly as though Test cricket was returning where it belonged. The bitter disappointment of Black Friday was forgotten.

The second Test at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium a couple of miles up the road was abandoned after 10 balls because the outfield was unfit. Even the great man himself, angry that the ground which bears his name should have provided such a shabby spectacle, was smiling again. There ought to be recriminations and retribution after the manner in which the match subsided on sandy ground but this was not the occasion to seek them. This was about redemption.

There were remarkable transformations in the sides. In the case of England this somewhat mystifyingly went as far as personnel. They made two changes from the 10-ball Test. Monty Panesar was dropped after 32 consecutive Tests in favour of Graeme Swann and Ryan Sidebottom made way for Stephen Harmison, in the expectation of pace and bounce from a surface of which nobody could be certain.

England's control and authority made them unrecognisable from the side which was ultimately so lamentable at Sabina Park. But the West Indies were also masters of disguise. Gone were the vibrancy and discipline of Sabina Park and in their place were carelessness and disinterest.

It was fitting that Strauss should embody England's reinvention. If his innings was not faultless it was always assertive. From the moment he clipped a four off his legs in the second over he looked to be at ease with himself.

He was probably happy to have lost the toss. Concerns that the pitch would vary between sporting and perilous quickly dissipated. Having been rolled with the kind of gigantic machine normally used to compact roads, it had probably been beaten into being. Whether, like a flogged errant child, it might rebel later remains to be seen.

In keeping with the atmosphere, England proceeded merrily from the outset. England's 50 came up in the 14th over, the 100 in the 35th with a straight six from Strauss, the 200 in the 61st. At no stage did the West Indies exercise control.

Strauss and Cook shared their fifth century partnership in 46 innings together and it may have been the most fluent. Both benefited from the defective lines that the West Indies bowled at the start but both seized the opportunity eagerly.

At Sabina Park, Cook, who likes, nay craves, balls on or around leg stump, especially at the start of an innings, was permanently denied. Now he was offered a constant diet and fed on them voraciously. Strauss was perhaps still more effective, pulling and driving with pleasing certainty.

Cook was rightly miffed to be out shortly after he had reached his fifty when his back foot forcing shot went to slip. The opener's job might have been done but he has now had 25 innings since his last Test century and has nine times failed to convert a fifty into a hundred.

Shah, batting in a Test for the first time in two years, began as though he had never been away. He thumped his first ball for four through the covers and set about compiling a proper Test innings. Lovely attacking shots were interspersed with correct defence as if he was making a point to those who had overlooked him for so long.

The second wicket was worth 153, with plenty seemingly to come when Shah misjudged a quick single. Strauss sent him back but Jerome Taylor calmly hit the stumps from short range on the off-side before the batsman could regain his ground.

The captain's composure never deserted him. Leadership may suit him: it was his third hundred in 13 innings as England captain. He was not quite flawless. When he was 14 he ducked into a bouncer which he was fortunate not to glove; he might have been run out had the West Indies fielders not dawdled; he survived a strong leg before shout before lunch; and was put down by Gayle at slip on 47. But he grew stronger as the day went on.

It had taken an enormous effort of manpower and graciousness to ensure this match began on time with the appropriate fixtures and fittings in place. Tons of television equipment had to be moved. In the event, overnight rain prevented a prompt start and when it transpired that water had leaked under the covers the doom-mongers feared the worst.

There had been some nonsense spouted about the ground not being ready. Of course it was not ready. The groundsman, Keith Frederick, had only 36 hours to prepare the pitch and tend the outfield where football is played more often than any other sport.

The markings of the pitch were evident at both ends and fielding was sometimes a slightly precarious business as balls bobbled. But it was an occasion when it was vital to wake up with your glass half-full and not half-empty. What piffle is sometimes spouted about the integrity of Test cricket. It was a great day.

Recreation ground: Scoreboard

First day of five; West Indies won toss

England – First Innings

*A J Strauss c and b Edwards 169

350 min, 278 balls, 24 fours, 1 six

A N Cook c Smith b Gayle 52

159 min, 134 balls, 5 fours

O A Shah run out (Taylor) 57

141 min, 100 balls, 8 fours, 1 six

K P Pietersen not out  8

32 balls

J M Anderson not out  3

13 balls

Extras (b6 w1 nb5) 12

Total (for 3, 92 overs, close) 301

Fall: 1-123 (Cook) 2-276 (Shah) 3-295 (Strauss).

To bat: P D Collingwood, A Flintoff, †M J Prior, S C J Broad, G J Swann, S J Harmison.

Bowling: Taylor 15-3-37-0 (nb1) (5-0-19-0, 5-1-6-0, 5-2-12-0); Edwards 14-2-38-1 (nb2) (2-0-11-0, 4-0-12-0, 6-2-12-0, 2-0-3-1); Powell 10-2-38-0 (5-2-14-0, 3-0-21-0, 2-0-3-0); Gayle 12-1-35-1 (6-0-16-0, 6-1-19-1); Benn 17-2-62-0 (nb1) (3-1-4-0, 8-0-27-0, 4-0-25-0, 2-1-6-0); Hinds 15-2-59-0, Nash 7-2-21-0 (one spell each).

Progress: First day: Start delayed until 10.50am due to wet run-ups. 50: 60 min, 14 overs. Lunch: 58-0 (Strauss 34, Cook 24) 18 overs. 100: 131 min, 34.4 overs. 150: 186 min, 50.5 overs. 200: 217 min, 60.1 overs. Tea: 206-1 (Strauss 116, Shah 33) 62 overs. 250: 259 mins, 71.2 overs. New ball taken after 87 overs at 291-2.

Strauss's 50: 111 min, 82 balls, 8 fours. 100: 200 min, 167 balls, 14 fours, 1 six. 150: 285 mins, 242 balls, 20 fours, 1 six. Cook's 50: 153 min, 124 balls, 5 fours.

West Indies: *C H Gayle, D S Smith, R R Sarwan, S Chanderpaul, B P Nash, R O Hinds, †D Ramdin, J E Taylor, S J Benn, D B L Powell, F H Edwards.

Umpires: D J Harper (Aus) and R E Koertzen (SA).

TV replay umpire: N A Malcolm.

Match referee: A G Hurst.

Antigua Recreation Ground: Brief history

*Built 1981. Capacity 9,000.

*Not hosted a Test since 2006, being replaced by Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, scene of Friday's pitch fiasco.

*Its first Test was England's visit in 1981. West Indies have won seven Tests, losing three and drawing 11.

*Brian Lara twice broke the record for most runs in an innings there, while Richards hit a 56-ball century.

*The ground has also hosted football, athletics, carnivals and concerts.

Shot of the day

*Andrew Strauss's straight six off Sulieman Benn to bring up England's 100 indicated that their pledges to reform after their wretched endeavours in Jamaica were not so much hot air. It was an un-Strauss like shot, and the more glittering for that.

Ball of the day

*Chris Gayle's first ball of the 11th over, a gentle off-break. It begged the question of what on earth he and the West Indies were doing introducing spin so early in the piece. The pitch was supposed to be fast and bouncy and the move suggested the home side were not exactly in the right frame of mind.

Moment of the day

*When the players walked out on to the Antigua Recreation Ground to start play at 10.50am following a 45-minute delay for rain, it felt, after the shabby events of Friday, that Test cricket was being reborn. This mood was evident in the response of the spectators who packed the ground.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Environment
Sudan, the last male northern white rhino
environmentThe death of a white northern rhino in Kenya has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth