Joe Root’s personal tale of batting woe continued on the opening day of the third and final Test against the West Indies as England were pegged back to 114 for four at tea at the Darren Sammy Stadium on Saturday.
England’s captain and premier batsman fell to fast bowler Alzarri Joseph for the third consecutive innings just before the interval, leaving Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes to carry the battle for the deflated visitors into the final session of the day.
Without any score of note so far, and thrashed by the home side in the first two Tests in Barbados and Antigua to surrender the Wisden Trophy, Root needed to get a decent score for his team and his own flagging confidence.
But coming to the crease after Rory Burns fell early in the afternoon session to Keemo Paul, he battled against disciplined West Indies bowling only to waft at an innocuous delivery from Joseph to give a simple catch to wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich.
Root’s painstaking innings of 15 off 54 deliveries leaves him with a tally of just 55 runs from five innings, typifying England’s desperate struggles with the bat from their first innings of the series when they were routed at Kensington Oval for just 77 on the way to a 381-run mauling.
Shannon Gabriel, by far the fastest of the West Indies bowlers, was the other wicket-taker in the afternoon session, removing Joe Denly with an lbw decision that again highlighted the technical deficiencies of many of England’s top-order batsmen.
Yet while he lacks the pace of Gabriel, Joseph and Kemar Roach, Paul has been the star with the ball so far for the hosts, making an immediate impact with a wicket with the first ball he bowled in the morning.
Drafted into the final eleven as replacement for regular skipper Jason Holder, who was suspended by the ICC for a poor over rate, Paul ended Keaton Jennings’ tortuous occupation of the crease when the opening batsman fell for the third time in three innings in the series to catches in the slip cordon.
Dropped earlier by Roston Chase at third slip off Roach, Jennings failed to make the most of the reprieve as the left-hander drove loosely at the seam bowling all-rounder’s opening delivery midway through the session to depart for eight off 43 balls via a Darren Bravo catch at first slip.
Jennings was dropped after failing in both innings of the first Test in Barbados, which allowed Denly to make his Test debut in Antigua.
He is one of two changes to the tourists’ eleven as left-handed all-rounder Sam Curran was omitted in preference for fast bowler Mark Wood.
West Indies’ only change to the victorious team from the first two matches was forced by the ICC’s ruling over Holder.
Kraigg Brathwaite took over the captaincy for the West Indies.