Dominant Root helps set up possible victory in Grenada

TOP MAN: Yorkshire's Joe Root, left, celebrates with England team-mate Ben Stokes after reaching a century against West Indies on day three in Grenada. Picture: Ricardo Mazalan/AP.
TOP MAN: Yorkshire's Joe Root, left, celebrates with England team-mate Ben Stokes after reaching a century against West Indies on day three in Grenada. Picture: Ricardo Mazalan/AP.
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Joe Root struck a masterful unbeaten century as England took a 74-run lead on day three of the second Test against the West Indies.

Root played with freedom and intent on his way to 118 not out, the key contribution in a score of 373-6 at the close of play.

England had other notable successes – Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott sharing the team’s first century opening stand for more than two years, with Yorkshire’s Gary Ballance reeling off another redoubtable 77.

But it was Ballance’s Yorkshire team-mate Root who operated with most ease on a day where others were made to work long and hard for their runs.

The 24-year-old has now passed 50 in his last six Test innings, equalling a national record held by Cook, Ted Dexter, Ken Barrington and Patsy Hendren.

It was a good day for the tourists, who can still position themselves for a victory push should Root and Jos Buttler push on later today, but there was a late wobble from the heavily-stocked middle order.

Moeen Ali ran himself out for a duck and Ben Stokes picked out deep midwicket with just eight to his name, curbing the momentum late on.

Stokes’s ongoing battle with Marlon Samuels again reared its head, the Jamaican standing and saluting Stokes as he stalked angrily towards the pavilion.

It was a wonderful day for batting, with clear blue skies, negligible seam movement and a bowling attack that ground to a standstill in sapping heat.

Root’s knock was the most damaging, his ability to hit the boundary boards and run hard doing most to advance the game in England’s favour.

But this was also a day of triumph for Ballance, whose diligent accumulation at No 3 has seen him adapt with remarkable ease to the demands of Test cricket.

As Kevin Pietersen continues to vie for attention at Surrey, it might be worth pondering how he would even fit into a middle order that is being marshalled quite brilliantly by two men who are around a decade younger than him.

The day began with Cook and Trott on 74 without loss but still firmly under the microscope, the captain seeking a first hundred in 34 innings and his partner attempting to justify his recall after 18 months off the circuit.

The opening session saw them both pass 50, but it was a slow grind, with 69 runs in 34 overs.

Trott did not make lunch, tempted in by Devendra Bishoo and feeding an edge to second slip.

His 59 represented progress after a nervy return in Antigua last week and should stand him in good stead for further opportunities.

Cook might also have fallen to the leg-spinner, with a marginal lbw review falling in his favour.

Instead he fell after the break, Shannon Gabriel taking two wickets in as many overs as 125 for nought turned into 164-3.

Cook and Bell dragged the ball into their stumps, the captain done by a change of angle and his deputy by a bit of extra bounce outside off.

That brought Root and Ballance together, fresh from a century stand in the second innings in Antigua.

They dovetailed perfectly once again, adding 165 at a shade under four an over to ensure the early platform did not go to waste.

Ballance was more cautious, but exploded to life in bursts, hitting three fours in 10 balls to race into the 20s and flogging Jermaine Blackwood for six.

Root raced past 50 in 69 balls and continued to score with impunity, a disorientated Bishoo on the receiving end of two dismissive sixes.

He spent just six deliveries in the 90s and flashed his 13th four to third man to bring up his century.

Ballance had already departed by then, becoming the third batsman of the day to play on to Samuels’s teasing off-break.

In theory his departure opened the door for England’s powerful lower order but the reality was somewhat different.

The returning Moeen lasted just four balls, running himself out and bagging a first Test duck in the process, and Stokes lifted Bishoo to deep midwicket.

Samuels was on hand to send him on his way and more fireworks can be expected as the volatile duo continue to cross each other’s path.

Scoreboard: Page 22.