NORTH SOUND, Antigua and Barbuda: England’s top three folded meekly to give the West Indies the early advantage with the tourists struggling at 49 for three off 25 overs at lunch on the opening day of the first Test on Monday.
Fast bowlers Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach and Jason Holder vindicated Denesh Ramdin’s decision to bat first on winning the toss, each claiming a wicket to have England faltering on a sunny morning that was only briefly interrupted by a light shower.
Their woes at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua and Barbuda started in the very first over as Jonathan Trott, in his 50th Test, edged a delivery from Taylor before he had scored for Darren Bravo to take a regulation catch at first slip.
It was Trott’s first appearance for the senior England side since leaving the Ashes tour of Australia 17 months earlier at the end of the first Test for what was believed to be a stress-related illness.
This pitch though, bears no relation whatsoever to the green, fast bowler’s track in Brisbane where Trott and all the England batsmen struggled to cope with the raw pace of Mitchell Johnson.
Here in Antigua, the issues were more about faulty technique and lapses in concentration, apart from the sustained discipline of the West Indies bowlers in maintaining a steady line under the watchful eye of new head coach Phil Simmons.
Trott’s opening partner, Alastair Cook, lasted just another half-an-hour before a tentative forward prod resulted in an inside-edge off Roach onto his stumps. Bowled for 11, the score extended the England captain’s poor run of form which has seen him without a Test century for almost two years.
Gary Ballance was England’s other casualty of the morning, the attacking left-hander drawn to chase a wide delivery from Holder for Bravo to take his second catch, on this occasion high to his left.
His demise for ten left Ian Bell and Joe Root to defy the energised West Indies attack and they will resume in the afternoon session needing a substantial partnership to regain lost ground.
West Indies opted for a lone specialist spinner in Sulieman Benn ahead of leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo, who was hoping to play his first Test match for three years following a prolific domestic season for his native Guyana.
England’s frontline seamer, James Anderson, is playing in his 100th Test, the 13th England cricketer to reach the landmark. He needs four more wickets to surpass Ian Botham’s record of 383 wickets as the most by an Englishman.