(Reuters) - Joe Root became the first England player to score a century during the series as the visitors strengthened their stranglehold in the third test against West Indies on Monday.
The England captain compiled a patient, unbeaten 111 in St Lucia as the visitors closed in on a consolation victory after losing the first two tests in the three-match series.
Ben Stokes was on 29 and England were 325 for four in their second innings at the close, an overall lead of 448 runs with two days remaining in Gros Islet.
Root had endured a poor series with the bat, making just 55 runs in his five previous innings.
But he made amends by notching up his 16th test century with a classic drive through mid-off for four, albeit off a generous full toss from Alzarri Joseph.
Root’s celebration showed just how much the innings meant to him as he punched the air, hugged team mate Stokes and then soaked up the minute-long applause from a pro-England crowd singing his name.
Root did not want to read too much into his recent low scores, especially since a couple of those dismissals had been to virtually unplayable deliveries.
“You can look at it like that but you can look at some of the dismissals I’ve had in there too,” he told a BBC podcast.
“You have to be realistic sometimes. If you feel form is a numbers game, then I have had a lean run but I’ve got a good approach to batting and it’s stood me in good stead until now.”
Though the series is lost, he said the match was far from being irrelevant.
“It’s been a tough three games and we have been outplayed at times so I think it was important we showed some resilience, bounced back and showed what we are capable of as a side.”
Former England captain Nasser Hussain agreed.
“Some people might say the series is gone, but not if you’re the England captain,” Hussain said on the international television broadcast.
“They’ve got an Ashes summer, a World Cup summer. It now could be 2-1 and a hundred in your last test innings of the winter in test cricket.
“That sets up you perfectly for what lies ahead, so this game and this innings was absolutely vital for Root.”
West Indies endured a long day in the field, picking up just four wickets.
Their cause was not helped by a thigh injury incurred early by pace bowler Keemo Paul, who departed on a stretcher, leaving West Indies with only three quick bowlers complemented by Roston Chase’s part-time spin.
Batsman Darren Bravo was also absent from the field after being struck on a finger on Sunday.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar