KINGSTON – England captain Joe Root and relative newcomer Alex Lees were kept in check by disciplined West Indies bowling in reaching 47 for one at lunch on the opening day of the second Test at Kensington Oval in Barbados on Wednesday.
Set back by the early loss of Zak Crawley to Jayden Seales after opting to bat first, Lees found a reassuring partner in Root as the Caribbean pacers strove hard for more success on a docile surface, reminiscent of the placid pitch both sides toiled on in the drawn first Test in Antigua a week earlier.
Root, who compiled a polished 25th Test century in the second innings at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, will resume in the afternoon on 31.
Lees, who may have feared the selectors’ axe after a double-failure on debut in the opening fixture of the three-match series, has been content to survive in getting to 16 at the break.
On a pitch tailormade for quality batsmen, West Indies may be left to rue a decision not to review a not out decision for an appeal for a catch behind when Root was on 23.
After much deliberation captain Kraigg Brathwaite decided not to review, only for replays to show he had gotten a faint edge to the delivery from medium-pacer Jason Holder.
In front of a near full house of mainly England supporters, West Indies celebrated the early demise of Crawley.
Fresh from a second-innings century in the first Test which engineered his team’s revival and set the stage for a push for victory on the final day, the tall right-hander fell without scoring to a perfectly-pitched delivery from Seales for wicketkeeper Joshua da Silva to take the catch low down to his right.
West Indies retained the same XI from the first Test but England were forced into two changes due to a growing injury and illness list among their fast bowling stocks.
Saqib Mahmood, who played in the five-match T20 international series at the same venue in January, was already earmarked for a debut in place of Mark Wood, the tearaway pacer who sustained a right elbow injury during the opening encounter of the three-match series.
Joining him now for a debut Test is Matthew Fisher, who only learnt of his inclusion in the final team this morning when fast-medium bowler Craig Overton fell ill overnight and was ruled out of consideration.
England were hoping to have Ollie Robinson return but he has not sufficiently recovered from back spasms sustained in the lone warm-up match two weeks ago in Antigua.