Matthew Fisher claimed a wicket with his second ball in Test cricket but West Indies rallied to be 71 for one, after England extended their first innings to a mammoth 507 for nine declared on the second day of the second Test in Barbados on Thursday.
Ben Stokes cast aside his recent poor form in blazing his way to 120 and stealing the spotlight on day two from his captain Joe Root, whose efficient 153 was the cornerstone of their formidable total on an ideal batting surface.
It was all England for the first two sessions of play after resuming in the strong overnight position of 244 for three.
It seemed the momentum would take them through the top order of the West Indies batting after tea when Fisher, operating with the new ball, had John Campbell caught behind.
For the 24-year-old Yorkshireman it was a dream start as he only knew of his selection for the match minutes before the first ball on Wednesday when it was determined that Craig Overton, who had fallen ill overnight, was not fit to play.
However, West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite (28 not out) and fellow Barbadian Shamarh Brooks (31 not out) negotiated more than 25 overs to set the stage on day three when they will be seeking to return the favour to the tourists who put concerted pressure on the home bowlers earlier in the day.
Leading that effort was Stokes with a period of rampaging aggression in the morning session which ended with the all-rounder unbeaten on 89 off 92 balls. He then advanced to 120 off 128 balls with 11 fours and six sixes.
“Once I got in I just tried to seize the opportunity of us having so many runs on the board,” said Stokes.
“You don’t often get the opportunity of such a good platform and I was really keen to take advantage of it to give ourselves enough runs on the board quickly so our bowlers would have enough time to get their batsmen on what is a good batting pitch.”
‘Very special feeling’
He appeared emotional on reaching three figures, the first time since the passing of his father, and he put the moment into context.
“In a team sport you never like to think of things in a selfish way but the hundred I’ve got, with all that had gone on for the past 18 months to two years, is one of the more memorable ones. It’s a very special feeling.”
Before Stokes’ demise attempting yet another big hit, England had already lost Root at the start of the post-lunch period when he was trapped leg-before by the persevering Kemar Roach to bring an innings to an end that had spanned more than eight hours during which he faced 316 balls and stroked 14 fours.
It was the same bowler who should have removed Root for just 34 on the first day only for wicketkeeper Joshua da Silva to spill the leg-side chance.
Left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul finished with three wickets as England’s lower-order went in search of quick runs before the declaration came.
Root was content to play a supporting role to Stokes at the start of the day, advancing his score by 31 runs in the first two hours’ play.
Stokes, who faced the first ball of the morning from Jason Holder after Dan Lawrence’s dismissal for 91 at the end of day one, was particularly harsh on Alzarri Joseph, belting three fours and a six off a single over from the Antiguan pacer.
That straight hit for six took Stokes past 5,000 runs in Test cricket and on 87 at the time, with two overs still to be bowled in the session, it seemed possible that he would have been able to achieve the rare feat of scoring a hundred runs in a single Test session.
However he was kept off strike for most of the remaining 12 deliveries to the relief of the suffering West Indies bowlers, adding just two more singles.