Joe Root’s well planted in final Test
If spectators at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium thought they could hear the refrain, “if only” emanating from England’s dressing-room, they may not have been mistaken.
If only this match was not a dead rubber, a commanding day with the bat might count for much more than the tourists’ pride. If only Joe Root’s century had come in Barbados or Antigua, West Indies might not hold an unassailable 2-0 series lead.
But, with England holding a 448-run lead to put themselves on track for a consolation win and with Root playing himself into form in his final innings of an otherwise lean series, incremental gains were the order of the third day in St Lucia.
Root found his touch to reach 111 not out after his scores of 4 and 22 in Barbados (which saw his average drop below 50 for the first time since 2014) were followed by knocks of
7, 7, and 15. He gritted his teeth through a difficult period against the new ball late the day and was richly rewarded, closing his eyes and punching the air after he brought up his 16th Test hundred with a four thumped down the ground off Alzarri Joseph.
He put on a century stand with Jos Buttler, who scored back-to-back fifties for the match, racking up a second-innings 56 off 115 balls before he was bowled by a pearler from Kemar Roach that went straight through the batsman, who couldn’t help but offer a look of admiration.
Denly, playing just his fourth Test innings, capitalised after being dropped by Shimron Hetmyer at third slip off the bowling of a livid Shannon Gabriel when he was on 12 to deliver an otherwise composed 69, until he was dismissed, caught behind off a bottom edge by Shane Dowrich while attempting to cut was welcome reward for a hard-working Gabriel.
Having resumed after lunch on 45, Denly brought up his 50 with a four, the 11th of his innings, before he was out three balls later.
Joseph snared the wicket of under-pressure Jennings with a ball that was missing everything before it jagged the thigh pad and curled behind the batsman onto leg stump.
Despite appearing to be in some discomfort with a hamstring problem in the morning session, Gabriel soldiered on to resume his verbal battle with Ben Stokes, who came to the crease late in the day and seemed to enjoy picking up the banter which started in the second Test.
Stokes shared an unbroken 71-run partnership with Root to be 29 not out at stumps.