England’s Root and Lawrence take centre stage against West Indies

At the ground where the names of the great Barbados and West Indies cricketers adorn the stands, Joe Root furthered his claims to go down as one of their English equivalents, finessing a 25th Test century for his most enjoyable day of the winter.

As the two sides strolled off at the close of day one of this second Test, the visitors – and the travelling supporters who have taken over Kensington Oval – were the happier. Root was unbeaten on 119 from 246 balls and England were well placed on 244 for three.

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But where West Indies might have been tired and chuntering after a day of self-inflicted wounds, a late bonus had instead come their way. Jason Holder claimed the wicket of Dan Lawrence in the final over for a stylish 91 from 150 balls, breaking a third-wicket stand of 164 that was threatening an English record at this ground.

Lawrence was utterly crestfallen, having just creamed two fours along the carpet only to attempt a third and drill it straight to Kraigg Brathwaite at cover. The Essex right-hander is yet to taste three-figures in Test cricket and is looking to cement his place at No 4, thus a chance to achieve both had gone begging.

It also represented a reprieve unpunished by Lawrence, who seven overs earlier was dropped on 72 when he flashed hard at a wide one from the impressive Jayden Seales only for Alzarri Joseph – a curious deployment at slip – to grass the ball. Having played so handsomely, both this shot and that which led to his demise go down as lessons to be learned.

Instead Root will stride out with Ben Stokes for company when play resumes on the second day, after anchoring the first in fine style. This second century in the space of a week, having made 109 in Antigua, was also further vindication after the positive move up to No 3 for this tour when all the statistics said otherwise.

There were a couple of lives along the way, it should be said. West Indies, unchanged from the first Test, failed to review a fine tickle behind when Root had 23 and a ball from Holder jagged between pad and bat, while Joshua Da Silva, the wicketkeeper, put down a one-handed catch off the bowling of Kemar Roach when Root glanced a sharp chance down leg on 34.

These came in a second-wicket stand of 76 alongside Alex Lees, who made 30 from 138 balls. But Root seldom looked back, delivering the full repertoire of shots that have been the hallmark of his career. When he brought up three-figures 40 minutes after tea, nudging Seales for a single, the roar said plenty about the make-up of the crowd in Bridgetown (if the array of flags hadn’t already).

While Root was as watchable as ever it took the arrival of Lawrence to inject impetus into the innings. This followed the demise of Lees, who over the course of three hours had chiselled to his highest Test score only to play around one from left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul for the simplest of lbw decisions.

After two single-figure scores in Antigua on debut, Lees had at least overcome his tormentor in Kemar Roach and taken the shine off the ball for those blessed with more strokes. The opener left plenty, passing up the odd half-volley at times, and made only one misjudgment before his demise when ducking into a short ball from Seales. Though perhaps overly cautious on what is another flat surface, it was progress nonetheless.In his place, and with Root fresh from bringing up his half-century, Lawrence positively crackled either side of tea. Taking 10 balls to get off the mark, the right-hander then unfurled an array of attacking strokes to bring up his half-century from just 62 balls.

Those present will remember his whipped six off Permaul, which sailed over midwicket and into the hospitality area in the Hall & Griffith, or the crisp back-to-back fours off Holder that went straight and through midwicket. If he goes on to crack Test cricket, Lawrence will delight a lot of people along the way.

This had originally felt like a day for liming, with the main drama of a morning that saw England reach 47 for one at lunch coming before the start of play; as supporters poured through the turnstiles there was the sight of Yorkshire’s Matt Fisher, paint pot in hand, marking out his run-up in glorious sunshine and with a smile as wide as the island.

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A debut for Saqib Mahmood was already guaranteed when England named their XI a day earlier but here was a surprise second, with Craig Overton having reportedly felt unwell overnight.

Cap presentations followed and members of the Fisher family were not just proud as rum punch but also £5,000 richer, after placing £100 on their lad to play for England at odds of 50-1 when he was just 14.

You have to go back to 2009 at Lord’s against the same opposition for the last time England handed debuts to two seamers in the same Test – Graham Onions and Tim Bresnan – but Fisher and Mahmood had to wait their turn. The loss of Zak Crawley for a seven-ball duck was the only wicket of a session in which neither side otherwise blinked.

Seales was the bowler to strike, a fine outswinger feathering the edge of Crawley’s bat when attempting to leave. After a century last week, the opener was forced to join the newcomers on the balcony for a day of watching others make hay in the sunshine.