LEEDS, United Kingdom (AFP) — Shannon Gabriel led a much-improved West Indies bowling effort as England struggled to 156 for six at tea on the first day of the second Test at Headingley on Friday.
Joe Root, the England captain, equalled AB de Villiers’s record for the most consecutive Test fifties but fell soon afterwards for 59.
Ben Stokes, dropped on nine, was 45 not out and Moeen Ali three not out.
The West Indies were widely castigated for an inept all-round display during an innings and 209-run defeat inside three days in the inaugural day/night Test in Britain at Edgbaston last week that saw them go 1-0 down in this three-match series.
But fast bowler Gabriel (two for 38 in 15 overs) and leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo (one for 27 in six), recalled in two changes to the team that played in Birmingham, were both in the wickets on Friday.
The West Indies would have been in an even stronger position but for their ongoing poor fielding which saw both Root (8) and Stokes dropped the slips while both in single figures.
Gabriel had bowled 24 no-balls in a pink-ball warm-up fixture against Derbyshire prior to the first Test.
But back in standard hours and with the red ball at his disposal, the fast bowler found conditions far more to his liking in Leeds.
Indeed the West Indies attack as a whole responded well to captain Jason Holder’s calls for greater bowling discipline after England had piled up 514 for eight declared at Edgbaston, with Cook making 243 and Root 136.
– Top-order slump –
By contrast, left-hander Cook, England’s all-time leading Test run-scorer, fell for 11 on Friday after edging Gabriel low to third slip Kyle Hope.
Both Tom Westley and Mark Stoneman were looking for runs to cement their places ahead of an upcoming Ashes tour of Australia.
But they were each dismissed cheaply Friday.
Westley, an Essex team-mate of Cook, was plumb lbw to Kemar Roach for three after being struck on the back leg.
Stoneman, Cook’s 12th England opening partner in five years since the retirement of Andrew Strauss and playing just his second Test, then exited for 19, caught behind off an inside edge against Roach.
England should have been 44 for four when Root nicked Gabriel only for Kieran Powell to drop the routine chance at first slip, with the Yorkshireman having already started to walk off the field.
As well as numbers two and three, England also have question marks over who bats at number five.
And when Dawid Malan, fresh from a maiden Test fifty at Edgbaston, played onto paceman Holder for eight, England were 71 for four.
Shortly after drinks, with England on 100, second slip Brathwaite dropped all-rounder Stokes off Roach.
To make matters worse for the West Indies, the edge went for four and left-handed batsman Stokes then drove Roach to the extra-cover rope.
Root, leading England on his Yorkshire home ground for the first time, equalled South Africa star De Villiers’s all-time record of fifties in 12 consecutive Tests when he swept Bishoo for four to the delight of the Headingley faithful.
But, not for the first time, Root was unable to convert a Test fifty into a truly big score and his 98-ball innings ended when he toe-ended a sweep off Bishoo and Jermaine Blackwood held the gentle slip catch.
Yorkshire wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow, who has rescued England from a many top-order collapse, fell for just two when Holder, leading by example, held an excellent low slip catch off Gabriel to leave the hosts six down.