Joe Root’s back in control at final curtain as England captain sets up victory push with a century 

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It has taken Joe Root three often painful Tests to find his feet in the Caribbean but on Monday he ensured this series should end the way it was expected to begin – with English domination.

The England captain began the third Test admitting he would have to temper his ‘total cricket’ policy but insisting his dismal form in an unexpected West Indian triumph was more down to unplayable deliveries rather than the growing demands of leadership.

Then Root re-asserted his authority at the Daren Sammy Stadium both as a captain in showing his bowlers in no uncertain times who was in charge and now with his 16th Test hundred as England quietly but assuredly moved into an emphatic position.

Joe Root led from the front as the England captain reached a century on day three of third Test

Joe Root led from the front as the England captain reached a century on day three of third Test

Joe Root led from the front as the England captain reached a century on day three of third Test

They have done it with proper Test cricket, too, capitalising on the advantage given them by Mark Wood’s explosive second day bowling with batting at the perfect tempo to build a surely insurmountable lead of 448 by the close of the third day.

At the centre of that was Root, who has seen his batting average tumble by 10 points since succeeding Sir Alastair Cook in charge and was suddenly in need of both a big score and a restorative victory after the calamities of Barbados and Antigua.

He gained the first initially in a partnership of 107 with his deputy Jos Buttler, making his second half century of the Test before being cleaned up by Kemar Roach, and the second will come either on Tuesday or Wednesday unless West Indies provide one last twist to a tumultuous series for them.

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This was the Root of old, busy, positive without being reckless and in total command of a West Indian attack lacking its most inexperienced member in Keemo Paul through injury and not looking nearly as threatening once England had worn them down.

This was the Root of old, busy, positive without being reckless as he hit a ton in St Lucia

This was the Root of old, busy, positive without being reckless as he hit a ton in St Lucia

This was the Root of old, busy, positive without being reckless as he hit a ton in St Lucia

Yet England needed Root to calm any concerns they may have had about yet another collapse when both openers again failed to convince they can provide the answers to the never ending questions at the top of the order with the Ashes looming ever closer.

It had been the 20-year-old Guyanese Paul who gave West Indies the perfect start when he had Rory Burns clipping the first ball of the day straight to square leg before his fortunes took a nasty turn when he suffered what appeared to be a serious thigh injury trying to cut off a boundary.

Burns has had his moments since being given his chance in Sri Lanka after Cook’s retirement, not least when he made 84 in Barbados, but he ends the winter averaging 25 from 12 innings and still displaying a capacity to get out in frustratingly soft ways.

But if Burns still has to convince he belongs at the highest level then Keaton Jennings must surely have run out of chances now even though there was an element of misfortune about the way he was bowled round his legs by Alzarri Joseph.

Joe Denly did himself no harm as he reached 69 runs alongside Root on Monday

Joe Denly did himself no harm as he reached 69 runs alongside Root on Monday

Joe Denly did himself no harm as he reached 69 runs alongside Root on Monday

Jennings had done everything in his power not to give his wicket away in battling to 23 but there was a look of resignation and perhaps a wry smile on his face when he played a defensive shot to Joseph and saw the ball trickle round his legs and just about dislodge the leg bail.

His unlikely comeback in this Test after England had appeared to draw a line under him in Antigua may have helped balance the side but it has done nothing to end Jennings misery against pace. The search for yet another opener will begin next summer.

If Jennings failed then at least the other member of England’s top three very much on trial in Joe Denly did himself no harm while not quite doing enough to guarantee his place in the next long-form assignment against Ireland in July.

Denly had one big stroke of luck when Shimron Hetmyer dropped a straightforward slip chance off Shannon Gabriel when he had made 12 but he went on to show glimpses of why national selector Ed Smith has been so keen to give him a chance.

The 32-year-old drove well, not least when he reached his 50 with a sweet cover drive, and really should have gone on to the hundred that would have all but clinched his slot for the start of the Ashes.

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But it was to end so disappointingly for Denly on 69 when he repeated the attempted cut off a wide delivery that had led to his demise in his first Test innings in Antigua and again under-edged to Shane Dowrich. Denly could not believe he had made the same mistake.

The captain, though, has shaken off his old habit of getting out between 50 and a hundred, and now he threw both arms high, punching the air and hugging his partner Ben Stokes when he went to three figures with an off-drive off Joseph.

Root is still there on 111 alongside and was congratulated by Ben Stokes after reaching his ton

Root is still there on 111 alongside and was congratulated by Ben Stokes after reaching his ton

Root is still there on 111 alongside and was congratulated by Ben Stokes after reaching his ton

It was at the start of West Indies first innings that Root had insisted on changing Jimmy Anderson’s field and now he was very much in charge again, not even allowing the departure of Buttler for 56 and a couple of verbal duels with Gabriel to disturb his equilibrium.

He is still there on 111 alongside Stokes, another important player getting back to something approaching his best with the bat, with England on 325 for four and should have the luxury of declaring some time after lunch today.

Then they will be perfectly placed to press home their advantage and avoid the clean sweep that would have represented the very worst follow up to their 3-0 victory in Sri Lanka before Christmas. It may not be enough to salvage this series but it is much more like how England should do it.



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