BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) - England’s Joe Root and Alastair Cook crafted superb centuries to lead the hosts to a commanding 348 for three on the opening day of their first day-night test against West Indies on Thursday.
Captain Root mastered the pink ball to make 136 and Cook was unbeaten on 153 at the close as England recovered strongly from a perilous 39 for two to take control of the game at Edgbaston.
”Today was about making sure we got into a position of strength,“ Root said. ”It’s something we did well in the last two games and to do it today is brilliant, but it will mean nothing if we don’t back it up tomorrow.
“I know it’s simple and boring, but all we tried to do was do the basics well. We went in with an open mind and played the situation in front of us.”
Root would have been hoping for a steady opening stand after winning the toss but Mark Stoneman, making his debut as Cook’s latest partner, was bowled off-stump by a fine delivery from Kemar Roach.
Miguel Cummins then trapped Tom Westley lbw, West Indies successfully reviewing the umpire’s not out decision to leave England in trouble at the start of the three-match series.
Cook and Root dug in, however, taking advantage of good batting conditions and wayward bowling and fielding with a flurry of crisp boundaries.
Former captain Cook brought up his fifty shortly before lunch and Root soon followed him to the milestone, posting a half-century for the 11th test in a row to equal the record in five-day cricket.
The prolific right-hander continued to play immaculate strokes all round the ground and he reached his 13th test hundred by sweeping off-spinner Roston Chase for his 19th four.
Cook soon joined his partner on three figures, his 31st test century, and the pair extended their magnificent third-wicket partnership to 248 before a tiring Root was bowled by a full-pitched ball from Roach.
Dawid Malan arrived at the crease with the floodlights on and under pressure after failing to get a decent score in his first four test innings.
But West Indies inexplicably delayed taking the second new ball and he was able to survive and move on to 28 not out before play ended at 2130 (2030 GMT) local time.
“We didn’t have one of our better days. We were poor. If you are conceding 53 boundaries in a day it shows a lack of discipline,” West Indies bowling coach Roddy Estwick said.
“We needed to hit our lengths hard and we knew it was going to swing in the twilight, but we didn’t execute our plan. It was a lack of concentration and we need to learn from it very quickly. It was disappointing.”
England, fresh from beating South Africa 3-1, are strong favourites to overcome a callow West Indies side without many of their leading players due to contractual disputes with their cricket board.
The fifth ever day-night test, and first in England, was expected to offer the touring side their best chance of an upset but the hosts are now in a dominant position to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
Reporting by Ed Osmond; Editing by Ken Ferris