[www.inewsguyana.com] – England captain Alistair Cook stroked his first Test hundred in two years and the 100th at historic Kensington Oval, but a brace of wickets from seamers Jason Holder and Shannon Gabriel, gave West Indies the edge on the opening day of the third Test there on Friday.
Opting to bat first, the visitors finished the day on 240 for seven, with Cook carving out 105 – his 26th Test century – before falling to the second ball of the day’s final over.
Left-hander Moeen Ali chimed in with 58 while the in-form Joe Root hit 33 and Ben Stokes, 22, but England were not allowed to build partnerships as West Indies struck at critical intervals to limit their progress.
Holder, who grabbed both his wickets prior to lunch, finished with two for 34 while Gabriel was again impressive in taking two for 36.
With his batsmen getting starts but failing to convert, it was left up to Cook to hold the innings together in a knock spanning just over six hours and 266 deliveries, and including 12 fours.
He was forced to spearhead several recovery efforts. When England slumped to 38 for three in the second hour of the morning, he put on 53 with Root and then added a further 98 for the fifth wicket with Moeen when England slipped to 91 for four after lunch.
In the final session, Cook put on 44 with Stokes for the sixth wicket to keep England ticking along.
Before a massive crowd of nearly 12 000, West Indies started brightly when Gabriel knocked over the out-of-sorts Jonathan Trott without scoring in the day’s second over.
The right-handed Trott fended off a short ball to short square leg where Veerasammy Permaul ran in to take a low catch.
For Trott, it was the third time in the series he had fallen without scoring and his fourth single digit score in five outings.
England then crawled to 22 for one after the first hour as Cook and fellow left-hander Gary Ballance repaired the innings but Holder struck twice in quick succession following the drinks break, to put West Indies in control.
Ballance had made 18 and added 38 with Cook when Holder breached his defence with a full length delivery that came back to pluck out his middle stump, in the fourth over after the break.
With no runs added in his next over, Holder accounted for the dangerous Ian Bell without scoring, moving to his left to claim a two-handed return catch after the right-hander drove airily.
Cook and Root saw England safely to lunch on 71 for three and the right-handed Root, unbeaten on 17 at lunch the break, moved nicely along afterward, taking two leg-side boundaries off the ineffective left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul who proved expensive.
However, Root then perished at Permaul’s hands 25 minutes after the restart, cutting at an innocuous delivery and edging a catch through to wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin, after facing 35 balls and counting five fours.
The session nonetheless belonged to England as Cook and Moeen denied the Windies any further success with the best partnership of the innings.
Moeen played freely, getting off the mark with a boundary to cover off Permaul before lifting the same bowler to the long on boundary a couple of overs later.
He was unbeaten on 37 at the tea break with Cook on 60, and raised his half-century about half-hour after the resumption when he cleared the mid-wicket ropes with part-time off-spinner Marlon Samuels.
Both batsmen looked well set for big scores when without warning, Moeen was run out attempting a sharp single. Cook cut Samuels straight to debutant Shai Hope at point and set off, and the fielder’s return to Ramdin found Moeen well short of his ground.
All told, Moeen faced 130 balls in 2-1/4 hours and counted eight fours and a six.
Stokes hung around for just over an hour and hit three fours and was building another partnership with Cook, before falling in the sixth over with the new ball. He looked to cut Gabriel, in the third over of a third spell, and found Hope at gully.
Cook, meanwhile, remained steadfast, pulling Gabriel for four to move into the 90s before clipping the same bowler to the mid-wicket boundary four overs later, to reach triple figures.
There was disappointment for the England skipper, however, as he fell in the day’s final over from Samuels, under-edging a cut for Ramdin to take a smart catch. (CMC)