Skipper Andrew Strauss’ 15th Test century helped England bury the double misery of their Jamaica humiliation and the abandoned second Test on the opening day of the third Test on Sunday.
Strauss hit 169 and there were half-centuries for Owais Shah and Alastair Cook, as England, sent in to bat by the West Indies, reached 301 for three in their first innings at stumps at the Antigua Recreation Ground.
Strauss turned his over-pitched 169th delivery from Daren Powell through backward square leg for two to reach the milestone to help make his team’s 51 all out in the first Test and Friday’s aborted Test a distant memory. He put on 123 for the first wicket with Cook before Shah, who was replacing Ian Bell, joined him to add 153 for the second wicket before they both departed in the final period of the day.
“It was important we came out positive today just to show there is a lot of fight in us and we did that from ball one,” Strauss said. “On this pitch it is not that easy to get ones, it’s easier to get boundaries than get ones. And once me and Cooky [Alastair Cook] were in we decided that if the shot was on we should back ourselves and go for the shot.”
But Strauss was fortunate. On 47, West Indies captain Chris Gayle dropped him at slip off Sulieman Benn before he steered Jerome Taylor to third man for two to bring up his 50.
Then on 71, he edged Ryan Hinds between wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin and slip fielder Gayle for the 10th of his 24 fours before he reached three figures.
Strauss and Cook had provided England with a firm foundation. They carried the tourists to 58 without loss at lunch before Cook was caught at slip off Gayle for 52 after the interval.
Shah entered and immediately announced himself with a cracking back-foot drive off his first ball from Gayle. They took England to 206 for one at tea, before Shah was run out for 57 when he failed to beat a direct hit from Taylor on his follow-through going for a suicidal run.
Strauss continued to stroke the ball crisply, but Gayle claimed the second new ball with England on 291 for two after 87 overs and was rewarded with the prized scalp of the left-handed opener.
Trying to pull a short, rising ball from Fidel Edwards, Strauss only succeeded in giving the bowler a simple return catch. He batted for five minutes short of six hours, faced 277 balls and also struck a six, a lovely straight hit out of the ground off Benn.
The start had been delayed by 45 minutes following overnight and early morning rain that affected parts of the parched outfield, with an area straight behind the wicket at the northern end being the most troublesome. West Indies made no changes to their 11 that took the field for the second Test, but England brought Steve Harmison and Graeme Swann in to replace Ryan Sidebottom and Monty Panesar.
The Antigua Recreation Ground was cleared to stage the match late on Saturday, following an inspection by ICC match referee Allan Hurst.
“I’m very happy with the ground,” he told reporters. “I think in the 24 hours they’ve had to prepare the ground, they’ve done a fantastic job.”