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England on top after Strauss ton

Fourth Test, Barbados (day one, close):
England 301-3 v West Indies

By David Ornstein

Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook
Strauss and Cook have given England a tremendous start in Barbados

Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook forged England's record opening stand against West Indies as the tourists gained the upper hand in the fourth Test.

Strauss (142) was dropped on 58 but made an eye-catching 16th Test century as he and Cook (94) put on 229.

But West Indies fought hard and took the morale-boosting wickets of Strauss, Cook and Owais Shah (7) after tea.

Kevin Pietersen was joined by Paul Collingwood and the pair led England to 301-3 at stumps on day one in Barbados.

England should be pleased with their position going into day two but they must hope Pietersen (32no) and Collingwood (11no) can guide them towards an imposing total.

Strauss and Cook, whose effort surpasses the 212 made by Reg Simpson and Cyril Washbrook at Trent Bridge in 1950, gave the tourists an ideal start and they still have batting to come in the form of Ravi Bopara, Tim Ambrose and Stuart Broad.

They will, however, be mindful of how little the pitch is offering to the bowling side, which could determine how long they attempt to bat on for.

The Kensington Oval wicket was expected to offer plenty of pace and bounce, prompting many to question England's decision to name Ryan Sidebottom ahead of Steve Harmison in a four-man attack including off-spinner Graeme Swann.

But the toss was, nonetheless, a good one for England to win and captain Strauss wasted no time in choosing to bat first amid clear skies and glorious Bridgetown sunshine.

After a cautious start, Strauss and Cook soon opened up with an array of fine strokes which continued through the morning session.


The pair negated the effect of Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards before punishing an initially wayward Daren Powell.

Strauss pulled, drove and cut the seamer for three emphatic boundaries and Cook smashed one of several terrible deliveries through the off side to the rope.

Taylor and Edwards were able to find occasional swing and bounce, but the flat track gave the batsmen confidence to attack anything too short, full or wide.

Strauss carved Sulieman Benn through cover to notch his half-century and, although he could have been caught after edging the following delivery past Devon Smith at slip, Benn was then lifted over mid-on for four.

The Middlesex left-hander should have been dismissed in the next over when he edged an Edwards delivery, but Windies captain Chris Gayle, falling to his right, dropped a simple catch at slip.

That reprieve might have prompted the openers into adopting a more vigilant approach but they ploughed on confidently and Cook swept Benn over midwicket for only his second six in 40 Tests.

The Essex man then drove the same bowler for an emphatic four to send the tourists in for lunch on 108-0 and the openers continued their charge after the interval with a flurry of boundaries off Powell.

Cook was fortunate to survive as he flashed one delivery through the slip cordon but passed 50 for the 19th time in Tests by dabbing Benn down to third man.

At the other end, Strauss moved to 94 with a glorious angled shot off Benn and then reached three figures for the second time in the series by clubbing the spinner over the leg side for a huge six.

West Indies celebrate Alastair Cook's dismissal
Three wickets after tea did little to raise West Indian spirits

It was Strauss' 16th ton in Tests and it capped a masterful knock which will be remembered as one of the 31-year-old's most glittering.

There was no hint of a breakthrough for the toiling Windies attack before tea, which England reached on 221-0, but they seemed to return from the pavilion with fresh optimism and duly earned their reward.

Just two overs had passed when Powell sent down a magnificent late-swinging yorker that bamboozled Strauss and split the captain's stumps.

That ended England's first double-century stand since Strauss and Marcus Trescothick put on 273 against South Africa in 2004.

Powell and Taylor were suddenly running in with a spring in their step and they should have had Cook when his mishit hook off Powell fell just short of an on-rushing Benn.

The left-hander was given a further let-off when he feathered Taylor between wicketkeeper and first slip, but his luck ended when another miscued hook looped to a diving Ryan Hinds at midwicket.

Of the 26 occasions Cook has now passed fifty, he has only gone on to reach three figures seven times and his last Test ton came in December 2007.

Aside from one well-timed four apiece, Shah and Pietersen struggled for fluency in the face of some highly disciplined bowling.

They scored just 18 runs in 9.3 overs and it came as little surprise when Shah edged Benn to Devon Smith at slip.

But the arrival of Collingwood, who made 113 in the first innings in Antigua, seemed to rejuvenate England and, importantly, the momentum had swung back in their direction by the close.

One over from Edwards, who saw Pietersen by Taylor on 20, went for 15 runs and England will hope the runs continue to flow on Friday.

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see also
Jonathan Agnew column
27 Feb 09 |  England
England in West Indies 2009
29 Dec 08 |  England

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