|Second Investec Test, Headingley, day one|
|England 258 (70.5 overs): Stokes 100, Root 59, Gabriel 4-51, Roach 4-71|
|West Indies 19-1 (12 overs): Brathwaite 13*|
|West Indies trail by 239 runs|
Ben Stokes defied a much-improved West Indies with a superb century before James Anderson struck late on day one of the second Test at Headingley.
Arriving at 71-4, Stokes counter-attacked in thrilling fashion, reaching his sixth Test hundred off 122 balls.
He was dropped twice, including the ball before making his century by Shannon Gabriel, who removed Stokes for 100 as the hosts were all out for 258.
Anderson snared Kieran Powell as the tourists closed on 19-1, 239 behind.
Following a dismal showing in the first Test at Edgbaston, West Indies bowled menacingly in the first two sessions, inspired by Kemar Roach (4-71) and returning fellow fast bowler Gabriel (4-51), to edge an engrossing first day.
However, they will rue dropping four catches in total and a ragged spell after tea that helped England – who lead the three-match series 1-0 – recover from yet another fragile top-order display.
Stirring Stokes shows the way
England’s batting flaws were exposed again but Stokes belied his team-mates’ struggles with an enjoyable innings of power and poise.
He had to grind at the start but found fluency by getting onto the front foot to hit thumping cover drives, reaching his half-century with one that whistled to the fence.
The longer his innings went on, the better Stokes looked, deftly punching down the ground and also charging the fast bowlers to clip forcefully through mid-wicket in hitting 17 boundaries in total.
It was far from a chanceless knock – Kraigg Brathwaite’s drop was tough but catchable, Gabriel shelled a very simple chance at mid-on with Stokes on 98, while there was also an inside edge that dropped short of wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich.
But in the context of where England were when he came to the crease, this was perhaps Stokes’ most important Test century.
In his five previous hundreds, England’s lowest score when the Durham man arrived at the crease was 120-4 – this innings underlining how the vice-captain is thriving on increasing responsibility.
Resurgent Windies let England escape
Reactions to West Indies’ demoralising defeat by an innings and 209 runs at Edgbaston encompassed pity, scorn and frustration.
The problems are far-reaching, but it was heartening to see this side respond with a disciplined bowling display infused with the odd burst of fire from Roach and Gabriel.
The latter proved how much his side missed him in the first Test, regularly bowling up near 90mph as he found the outside edge of Alastair Cook’s bat to remove the in-form opener for just 11.
The burly 29-year-old has previously struggled to replicate that pace in subsequent spells but returned to have Jonny Bairstow caught well in the slips by Jason Holder before exchanging words with Stokes after gaining quick revenge for his poor spill.
The bowling was threatening but the fielding was forgiving – Powell dropping a straightforward chance with Joe Root on just eight before the England captain went on to hit a world record equalling half-century in 12 consecutive Tests, later edging Devendra Bishoo to first slip.
Windies captain Holder also let Root and Stokes accumulate after tea with some questionable field settings on an otherwise promising day for his side.
England’s problems at two, three and five show no signs of being solved.
Opener Mark Stoneman played watchfully for his 19, only to drive loosely at a pitched-up ball from Roach and inside edge him behind.
Tom Westley looks to have been sussed out in just his fourth Test match – once again his head falling over a full, straight ball that trapped the number three plumb lbw.
And Dawid Malan edged the nagging but gently-paced Holder on to his own stumps – the number five holding a lovely pose entirely at odds with just having played down the wrong line.
The uncertainty over these positions since the last Ashes series has contributed to England having just the sixth best average number of runs at the fall of the third wicket of all Test-playing nations over the past two years.
Australia are top by some distance, adding to the fear England will arrive down under this winter both unsure of their best team and unequipped to defend the Ashes.
That feels a long way away. For now, an under-strength West Indies are proving too much for a trio being forced to adapt to Test match cricket in a rush.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan on Test Match Special: “It’s been a nice day to have the ball in hand. Edgbaston was a one-sided contest but today it’s been a two-sided contest. Gabriel was magnificent but Roach was the pick – he bowled the perfect length for Headingley.
“Some of Stokes’ strokeplay was as good as anything you’ll see. He has the knack of hitting the ball where the fielders aren’t. Root played nicely and will be disappointed with his dismissal. He didn’t need to take any risks against Bishoo.”
West Indies fast bowler Kemar Roach, speaking to Sky Sports: “We had a big meeting about discipline, we weren’t good enough in the first Test and we came out and were much better here.
“It was a pretty tough day, you’ve got to keep mentally strong. Stokes batted really well – it didn’t go our way today with those catches but we will talk about that too.
“I can’t really fault the fielders much – we fielded well in the warm-up games but today was not a good day at the office.”
England’s Ben Stokes, speaking to Sky Sports: “We might be a little disappointed with 258 but we won’t know if it’s a good score until the end of the West Indies innings.
“I tried to be positive today – they were trying to bowl wide to me so I tried to hit into the leg side to upset their plans.
“I had a brain fade on 98. It was one of those moments, where I thought ‘what am I doing?’ I was annoyed at myself for getting out too.”