Jonny Bairstow’s classy century led England’s escape against the West Indies from a noose-tightening 48-4 to a breathe-easy 268-6 on the opening day of the first Test in Antigua on Tuesday. Bairstow ended the day on 109 not out.
England’s new top order looked like the old top order as it was routed inside the first 16 overs. The recovery was started by Bairstow and Ben Stokes crawling to lunch at 57-4. They combined for 67 to take England past 100.
Bairstow and Ben Foakes made 99 together to take England past 200, then Bairstow reached his eighth test century in the company of allrounder Chris Woakes. Those two saw out play to stumps, including six overs of the new ball, to complete a remarkable turnaround.
Bairstow finished the day 109 not out from 216 balls with 17 fours. He has a partnership of 54 going with Woakes, who was on 24, almost his test average. Fast bowler Jason Holder was the pick of the West Indies battery. Holder conceded 15 runs from his 16 overs and took two wickets.
He didn’t leak a run in his first five overs and bowled nine maidens. Jayden Seales deserved the wickets of Stokes and Crawley for 64 runs from 19 overs. But their efforts came as the attack tired amid sloppy fielding at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
Root chose to bat first as he saw the pitch flattening out and becoming friendlier for the batsmen. But he and the top order couldn’t survive the early roasting from the West Indies quicks. Openers Lees, on debut, and Zac Crawley were gone inside four overs, Root was bowled at 27-3, and Dan Lawrence departed on 48-4.
Bairstow and Stokes limped to lunch, but came back refreshed for a fight and started hitting boundaries regularly as West Indies became too loose. Stokes had just hit his third and fourth boundaries when he dragged on against Seales and ended a gritty and necessary 95-ball stay for 36.
But that was England’s only loss of the middle session. Foakes punished anything slightly loose and hit eight boundaries before succumbing lbw to Holder for 42 from 87 balls. Woakes was yet to score when he survived a difficult catching chance by Holder in the slips off Alzarri Joseph.
Bairstow was on 80 at the time. He’d bided his time, found his range, and punished the tiring West Indians. He moved relatively quickly to his ton, which he reached by sweeping captain Kraigg Brathwaite through backward square to the fence.
Bairstow punched the air in delight after his second hundred in two tests, following his score in the fourth Ashes test in Sydney. The West Indies took the new ball immediately but couldn’t entice a false stroke from Bairstow and Woakes, who earned England the first day honours.