England (244-3) build a healthy lead in the second Test in Barbados
Dan Lawrence’s chip to cover in the 90th and final over carried more personal pain than it did to the team. His 91, compiled engagingly over three hours and eight minutes, was selfless and daring. Both qualities that ultimately mean he now has four half-centuries to his name, rather than three and one maiden hundred at this level. Nevertheless, at 244-3, it was a job well done, albeit with a disappointingly premature end.
Alongside him for the walk off, still undefeated, still unrelenting, was Joe Root. He will return on Thursday morning 119 not out, Test century number 25 safely stowed away, a second at number three in as many innings. Where Lawrence was the adrenaline, Root was the serotonin, taking 199 balls to reach this latest landmark and exuding calm throughout, not least at the toss.
He won it before opting to bat first on a pitch that proved to be as pleasant as it looked for batting. A late change meant Yorkshire seamer Matt Fisher debuted with Lancashire’s Saqib Mahmood, for Craig Overton (taken ill this morning) and Mark Wood (ruled out on Tuesday). Both had their feet up for all of their first day of Test cricket. Something they probably should not get used to.
The slow-burn start to this day was a period when West Indies had their most joy. Jayden Seales’ whippy away swinger removed Zak Crawley for a duck as he tried and failed to leave, an innings after his 121 in Antigua. Fellow opener Alex Lees made it into double figures for the first time in his Test career but was undone by indecisive footwork, trapped leg-before to Veerasammy Permaul for 30.
After 45 overs, England were by no means set. They’d only lost two batters (good), but only had just 80 on the board (not bad, all told). But those overs on a surface with good carry but not so much lateral movement just yet gave Root and Lawrence the opportunity to work around an older ball.
As the runs piled up through the respective classical and home-spun techniques, West Indies – and specifically Joshua Da Silva – might have been wondering what might have been. Twice they missed Root on caught behind chances. The first was hidden within a LBW appeal when the 31-year-old was on 23: an inside edge onto pad seemingly taken low by Da Silva while those around him were up in arms. Having burned a review on Root before, Kraigg Brathwaite decided against sending this one upstairs, meaning the television umpire did not check on the secondary potential dismissal.
Da Silva was just as involved with the second, on 34, when Root helped a Kemar Roach delivery around the corner. Having got to the ball, it bounced out of the wicketkeeper’s left hand. A tough chance but akin to some he took just last week.
Lawrence also had a couple of hairy moments running between the wickets. The first almost cost him his place, diving in at the non-striker’s end to complete an unnecessary risky single. The second almost sold Root, on 86, down the river. That neither resulted in run outs owed to misfields from John Campbell.
In between, and after, Lawrence channeled this pro-activeness in a more constructive way. It wasn’t just that he matched Root for quality of shot, but did so while maintaining his unique wristy charm.
Just as Permaul was building nicely, he was swished over midwicket for six by the Lawrence. The 24-year-old thrice hit back-to-back boundaries in a “one for you, one for me” set. The first duo was a textbook on drive following by a breaking of the wrists to hit a ball on off stump through midwicket. The second was a cover drive on the up followed by a late dab through third man. The final brace came in the last over, through cover and down the ground once more. Then came the sucker punch with one scheduled delivery to come.
Well before he passed a previous best of 81 not out – against New Zealand last summer – this already had the feel of his most accomplished Test knock of his 18 to date.
The applause from a largely English crowd in Bridgetown crescendoed across three balls. The first of polite applause as Root and Lawrence moved to a century stand for the third wicket from just 134 balls. Lawrence then spun from front to back foot to pull Seales around the corner to move to 50 before Root mimicked the shot take himself to 100.
The final session was by no means straightforward, even if no wickets fell until the death. Lawrence twice edged – wide of Alzarri Joseph at wide first slip on 62, then through him at catchable shoulder height when on 72 after being lured out wide by Seales. The second new ball talked just as much as the first, but Root and Lawrence ignored it. Another strong drive from the latter took the pair past 150 together.
Boundary number 13 and 14 took Lawrence into the nineties and the stand to 164. But a loose attempt at number 15 gave Holder a deserved first and sent the fielding side into raptures as they walked off after what had almost turned into a thoroughly dispiriting day.
Nevertheless, with Ben Stokes and an in-form Jonny Bairstow to come, England hold a commanding position going into day two. Albeit one that could have been better.