OPENERS Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott failed with the bat again but England recovered from their latest wobble to take a firm grip on the first Test against the West Indies in Antigua last night.
Cook extended his wait for an international century to 61 innings by departing for 13, while Trott, back in the side for the first time since 2013, improved on his duck on Monday by just four runs.
But 44 not out from Gary Ballance and Joe Root’s unbeaten 32 took England from 52-3 to 116-3 at stumps on day three – a lead of 220, after the hosts had been bowled out for 295.
West Indies batsman Jermaine Blackwood led the resistance with 112 not out, his maiden Test century, while off-spinner James Tredwell was the pick of England’s bowlers with figures of 4-47.
Paceman James Anderson inched closer to surpassing Sir Ian Botham as England’s record Test wicket-taker, his second scalp of the match taking him to 382 – just one short of the former Test captain’s tally.
England began the day keen to break a 56-run alliance between Blackwood and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, but they were able to put on 37 more before the latter went four short of his half-century, scooping to Ben Stokes at cover off Tredwell. A short Stuart Broad ball down the legside did for captain Denesh Ramdin (9), who gloved to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, and England might have taken another wicket before lunch but Ballance dropped a chest-height catch at short leg when Jason Holder was on four.
Blackwood brought up his ton before Ballance made amends, catching Holder (16) when he tried to chip Tredwell, and Kemar Roach (5) became the bowler’s fourth victim when he edged behind to Buttler.
West Indies were all out for 295 when Root caught Sulieman Benn (2) off Anderson, who claimed his second scalp of the match.
Trott suffered a duck in the first innings and lasted only slightly longer second time around before he was caught by Ramdin off Jerome Taylor’s delivery.
Cook made just two more than in his brief spell at the crease on Monday before he became Taylor’s next victim, getting a thick outside edge to gully where Benn made the catch.
Bell then left England on 52-3 when he was run out attempting a quick single, but Ballance and Root steadied the innings to steer Cook’s men to a commanding position at the close.
England all-rounder Moeen Ali is to join the squad for the second and third Test of the series, it was confirmed last night, after the Worcestershire player missed this match with a side strain.