Alastair Cook entered Test cricket’s brave new world with a familiar dose of old-school phlegm, as he watched his new opening partner, Mark Stoneman, and his Essex sidekick, Tom Westley, come and go against the pink ball, as England reached lunch on 102 for 2 after a mixed opening session of the day-night Test at Edgbaston.
By lunch, Cook was unbeaten on 50, having brought up his half-century from his final ball of the session, with Joe Root once again bedding in alongside him on 40. Neither man had been remotely troubled by an eager but one-dimensional West Indies attack that conceded a remarkable 22 boundaries – more than 80 percent of the session’s total.
Only two deliveries, in fact, truly troubled any of the batsman, and both claimed precious wickets, as England’s unstated ambition of using this series to resolve their top-order issues in good time for the Ashes received an early reality check.
Stoneman, whose impending debut had been confirmed on the eve of the game, duly received his cap from Jonathan Trott in the team huddle before play and emerged from the pavilion shortly before 2pm to become Cook’s 12th opening partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss in 2012.
And briefly, he looked like one of the more accomplished candidates for the long-term role. After being granted a yawning sighter from Kemar Roach – a Harmison-esque wide that stung the fingers of second slip – Stoneman eased himself off the mark with a beautiful cover drive from his second legal delivery, before clipping a second four, off his pads and through square leg, in the same erratic over.
But Roach, it appeared, was merely finding his range, and with the first ball of his second over, he nailed it to deadly effect. Stoneman propped half-forward to a good-length delivery on middle and leg, only to lose the top of his off stump as the ball zipped off the seam and past his outside edge.
Enter Westley, who once again looked settled at the crease in an 18-ball stay, without translating that serenity into a telling performance. His shot to get off the mark was an authoritative drive down the ground off Roach, and he later dispatched Alzarri Joseph through the covers for his second four. But, without addition, he was pinned on the front pad by Miguel Cummins’ third delivery. Umpire Marais Erasmus was initially unmoved, but three red lights on Ball Tracker prompted him to alter his decision.
Cook, as he has become accustomed, watched the events unfold at the other end with a faint air of bemusement. His innings was a classic example of playing each ball on its merits – he got off the mark with a first-ball tap into the covers, and had picked off five fours from his next 13 balls before resorting to another single. The pink ball, in West Indies’ hands at least, offered little by way of lateral movement, and having chosen to omit their legspinner, Devendra Bishoo, Jason Holder turned to the offspin of Roston Chase for the final over of the session.
Root, who entered the match on an England-record-equalling run of ten consecutive matches with at least a fifty, looked well set to add to that tally by lunch, having eased into his innings after a cautious start. Holder’s medium pace was particularly to his liking, as he picked off four of his five fours, before deflecting Joseph’s extra pace for back-to-back boundaries through fine leg and third man.