GROS ISLET, St Lucia, CMC – Captain Joe Root’s 16th Test hundred helped starve West Indies of meaningful success as England extended their lead to well over 400, to take a stranglehold on the final Test at the Darren Sammy National Stadium here yesterday.
On a rare day of toil in the three-Test series, the hosts managed just four wickets on day three of the contest as England marched to 325 for four at the close, already 448 runs ahead.
Root was unbeaten on a compact 111 – his first significant score of an otherwise wretched tour – while Joe Denly carved out his maiden Test half-century with 69. Jos Buttler chipped in with 56 to notch his second fifty of the game.
With the highest ever successful run chase in Tests remaining the Windies’ 418 against Australia, 16 years ago in Antigua, England’s lead has already put them as firm favourites to win their first match in the series.
Ironically, the day started positively for West Indies when seamer Keemo Paul struck with the first ball of the day, having left-hander Rory Burns caught at square leg by Alzarri Joseph for 10, clipping a ball firmly off his legs before England had added to their overnight 19.
Tragically, Paul was stretchered off soon afterwards after tearing his right quadriceps, while chasing a ball in the outfield. Team officials said he would not bowl or field again in the match.
However, Denly and opener Keaton Jennings then combined in a 54-run, second wicket stand to keep West Indies without further success for the hour.
The right-handed Denly, in only his second Test, had his share of luck on 12 when he stabbed one that lifted from speedster Shannon Gabriel to third slip where Shimron Hetmyer grassed a regulation chance.
He overcame the blip to stroke 11 fours in 99 balls at the crease while Jennings, starting the day on eight, also faced 99 deliveries and counted two fours.
Seamer Joseph got the breakthrough 40 minutes before lunch, when he bowled Jennings off his pads, to leave England 108 for two at the interval.
West Indies laboured in vain after the break, managing just a single wicket as England piled on the pressure to bat themselves into a near impregnable position, courtesy of two key stands anchored by Root.
First, the marquee batsman extended his third wicket stand with Denly to 74, both batsmen scoring freely to enhance England’s lead.
Denly, unbeaten on 45 at lunch, reached his maiden Test half-century in the second over after the interval with a driven boundary off seamer Kemar Roach.
But he fell in disappointing fashion, caught at the wicket cutting at a wide ball from Gabriel, 48 minutes after lunch, with England on 147.
Any hopes Windies had of making further inroads were dashed as Root then combined with Buttler to post 107 for the fourth wicket.
Root strolled to 45 at tea with England on 207 for three, and reached his half-century in the third over after the break with a four off ineffective part-time off-spinner Roston Chase.
Buttler, on 37 at the interval, brought up his 13th Test half-century before becoming the only casualty of the final session, bowled by Roach in a new spell in the first over with the second new ball.
He faced 115 deliveries and counted five fours.
Root found another ally, this time in Ben Stokes who was unbeaten on 29 at the end, and together have shared a stand of 71 for the fifth wicket.
Root reached triple figures six overs from the close when he punched a Joseph full toss to the straight boundary and so far struck nine fours off 209 deliveries.