As day turned to night, and while a historic fixture was being graced with a far more impressive sunset that a dank morning in Birmingham had threatened, a familiar figure made light of the creeping darkness to leave England in the pink and Edgbaston’s 21,000 punters in beery good spirits – not that West Indies’ toiling attack had quite so many reasons to be cheerful.
Alastair Cook has been threatening a big score all summer long – his 88 against South Africa at The Oval was arguably the most important innings of England’s season to date – but at the scene of his career-best 294 against India in 2011, he racked up his 31st hundred, and his first since returning to the ranks, to grind England into a position of utter dominance in their maiden pink-ball Test.
He did so, for the most part, in the company of the man to whom he had passed the reins. In the course of a stand that spanned 66.5 overs and the best part of five hours, Cook and Joe Root added 248 for the third wicket to atone for another flimsy display from their top-order rookies and cement England’s status as runaway favourites in this three-Test series.
Root, in keeping with a remarkable run of form that has now carried him to half-centuries in each of his last 11 Tests – a new England record – was, as usual, the principle aggressor. Until he missed a loose drive in the 75th over – beaten by late inswing from Kemar Roach, the most energetic and impressive of an outclassed pace quartet – he had scarcely played a false stroke in racking up 136 from 189 balls, his 13th Test century and second of the summer.
West Indies’ hangdog day in the field was epitomised in bizarre circumstances in the closing half-hour of play. For reasons known only to the captain himself, Jason Holder chose, in the 81st over, to pass over the chance to attack England with the shiny new pink ball and instead brought himself on to bowl three tepid deliveries before limping off the field with cramp.
To compound the sense of a side that had lost their bearings, the spinner Roston Chase was called upon to complete an over in which England brought up their 300th run, and he might have carried on for the 83rd as well had it not been for late change of heart – presumably initiated by the coach Stuart Law on the player’s balcony.
Summarized scores: England 348 for 3 (Cook 153*, Root 136)
Roach 2 for 72; Cummins 1 for 61