England v West Indies: Home hero Joe Root can't mask familiar failings of England
AT 11.52am precisely, a huge roar reverberated around Headingley cricket ground.
A young man with a slightly bashful gait walked on to the field where he grew up plying his trade for Yorkshire.
There was no mistaking Joe Root beneath the dark-blue helmet, or the avalanche of affection as he came out to bat.
It is the first time that he has captained England at Headingley, and the 14,006 fans left him in no doubt that they were willing him on to another big score.
For a long time into the cloudy afternoon, one in which floodlights were needed and spots of rain felt, it seemed as though they would get their wish.
As though by divine decree, the golden boy of English cricket reached yet another half-century, his 12th in successive Tests, thus equalling AB de Villiers’s world record.
The apparent inevitability that Root would mark his special day by reaching three-figures at the venue where he made his maiden Test hundred in 2013 was intensified when he was badly dropped at first slip by Kieran Powell off Shannon Gabriel on eight, which would have left England 44-4 after Root won the toss.
But after advancing his personal tally to 59, Root toe-ended a sweep off leg-spinner Davendra Bishoo to slip, where Jermaine Blackwood took the catch to prove that not even golden boys are guaranteed a fairytale script.
Instead, it was not the England captain who stole the show as the hosts scored 258 on the opening day, but vice-captain Ben Stokes, who led the way with 100 from 124 balls with 17 fours.
It was an innings bristling with trademark attacking shots interspersed with the odd slice of luck; Stokes was badly dropped not once but twice, Kraigg Brathwaite putting him down at second slip off pace bowler Kemar Roach when he had nine, and Gabriel shelling him even more palpably at mid-on off Roach when he was two runs short of his sixth Test hundred.
For West Indies, who fought hard after their innings trouncing in the first Test at Edgbaston, with Roach spearheading a much-improved display, it was a day that promised more than it eventually delivered.
When Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow was sixth out just before tea, the total stood at 152 and the sultry day seemed then in the balance, but Stokes grabbed the initiative in the final session, helping England push on like a distance runner who had timed his acceleration well.
Not that England’s total is conclusive by any stretch; nor was their day without familiar frustration.
The problem positions of numbers two, three and five in the batting order remain a problem, with Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley and Dawid Malan failing again.
As the gloom thickened towards the close, West Indies reached 19-1 in reply from 12 overs, a minor triumph against James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
But memories of the tourists’ supine batting in Birmingham are too fresh to suggest that England’s own below-par batting performance might prove costly in Leeds.
As a near sell-out crowd flocked to Yorkshire’s first August Test since 2012, with recent games having taken place mainly in May, England began badly when Alastair Cook and Westley fell early.
Cook, fresh from a sumptuos double hundred at Edgbaston, was squared up by a ball from Gabriel and well caught low down at third slip by Kyle Hope, while Westley went lbw to Roach playing across his front pad while aiming to score in the direction of mid-on.
The scoreboard showed 37-3 in the 15th over when Stoneman, after 73 minutes’ resistance, tried to crash Roach through the off-side and was caught behind off an inside-edge.
But West Indies did themselves no favours when they missed the chance to remove Root early, the Yorkshireman having already begun to walk off the field before realising that Powell’s slip catch had fallen to ground.
Malan – who struggled again – departed in the third over after lunch, Holder bowling him off an inside-edge, and Bairstow followed Root back to the pavilion when he was caught low down at second slip by Holder off Gabriel, a decision upheld after television replay.
Runs flowed after tea as Stokes and Moeen Ali raised 68 in 79 balls, Stokes going to his half-century from 67 deliveries with 10 boundaries, and Ali playing his part before driving Roach to point, where Roston Chase claimed a good catch.
The last three wickets fell for no runs in 11 balls as Stokes was caught behind trying to pull Gabriel, who then bowled Broad moments after having him dropped by wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich.
Roach rounded things off by having Chris Woakes caught behind to finish with 4-51, Gabriel returning 4-71.
Anderson had Powell caught at first slip by Cook in the seventh over of the tourists’ first innings to move to with seven of 500 Test wickets.