Joe Root century sets up aggressive declaration in Antigua

The England skipper called his side in before lunch, leaving the West Indies to chase 286 in 70 overs.

Joe Root made a century and then sprung a surprise pre-lunch declaration (Ricardo Mazalan/AP)
Joe Root made a century and then sprung a surprise pre-lunch declaration (Ricardo Mazalan/AP)

Joe Root scored his 24th Test century to go second on England’s all-time list before a brave declaration left the West Indies chasing 286 on the final day in Antigua.

Having watched Jonny Bairstow’s first-innings hundred and partnered Zak Crawley as he racked up three figures on day four, the England captain followed suit with 109 on the fifth morning of the series opener.

Resuming on 84 not out, he needed just over an hour to convert. In doing so he overtook Kevin Pietersen’s tally of 23 but still sits nine behind Sir Alastair Cook, his predecessor as skipper.

Joe Root celebrates his century (Ricardo Mazalan/AP)

England’s pursuit of quick runs cost them four for 19 but Root waved his side in shortly before lunch on 349 for six, leaving the Windies with around 71 overs left to bat.

Within moments it was announced that Mark Wood would not be fit to play any part with the ball, his elbow injury having worsened during a brief workout in the nets ahead of play. Without their 90mph battering ram, the pursuit of 10 wickets on a flat track looked a tough one.

The day began with Crawley falling for 121, yorked by Jason Holder after adding just four to his overnight score. With nine wickets in hand at the start of play and a lead of 153, things still appeared comfortable aside from a loose five overs gave the West Indies some encouragement.

Dan Lawrence made an enterprising 37 at better than a run a ball before slashing Alzarri Joseph to point, before Root’s desire to keep the scoreboard moving saw him expose too much of his stumps to the Antiguan seamer.

He was gone for 109, a record 13th ton as captain and his first in the number three position since 2016. Having taken just two wickets in 63 overs on Friday, the hosts had already exceeded that total and were not finished yet.

Ben Stokes bashed a couple of boundaries but was soon gone, lofting a Kemar Roach slower ball down long-on’s throat, and Ben Foakes dragged his middle stump down.

Root’s desire to get the hosts back in before the interval came as something of a surprise but gave Chris Woakes and spinner Jack Leach four overs to spring one of their own. Neither could find a way past Kraigg Brathwaite or John Campbell, who scored four runs between them.

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