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Ian Bell rings up ton for slow England against the West Indies

By Staff Reporter

Ian Bell hit a polished century as England overcame early West Indian pressure on day one of the first Test in Antigua.

Bell reached his 22nd Test hundred in 194 balls, providing the innings with a backbone that had been absent when the top order collapsed.

The tourists slumped to 34 for three after Jonathan Trott, Alastair Cook and Gary Ballance all departed early but Bell found a willing accomplice in Joe Root as the pair added 177 for the fourth wicket.

They took the sting out of the situation and seemed to be on course for twin tons until Root dragged Jerome Taylor on for 83.

But Bell pressed on towards three figures, wearing down the home attack with calm authority and cashing in when they wavered.

After a long wait in the 90s, Bell got a thick edge on a Marlon Samuels delivery but saw the ball evade slip and race to the ropes.

The 33-year-old celebrated with unusual vigour, pumping his first and kissing the badge on his helmet, with England 248 for four.

West Indies - with former Ireland boss Phil Simmons in charge for the first time - won the toss and skipper Denesh Ramdin sent England in, a bold move but one that paid instant dividends.

There was an inauspicious start from the new opening partnership of Cook and Trott, the latter restored to the side 18 months after leaving the 2013/14 Ashes with a career-threatening bout of situational anxiety. His recall, ahead of Yorkshire's Adam Lyth, brought him the high of a 50th Test cap and the low of a three-ball duck.

Taylor had Trott held at slip with a searching delivery that might have been left but instead sailed to Darren Bravo off the outside edge.

Cook could have fallen in the following over but his nick fell a fraction short of Bravo as wicketkeeper Ramdin declined to go for the chance.

Cook, without a Test hundred in almost two years, gave a brief reminder of his class when he eased Kemar Roach through the covers for four but the bowler exacted swift revenge.

Three balls later he located a gap between bat and pad, parting the England captain's stumps.

It was a messy dismissal for the skipper, whose search for a major score continues. Ballance is also struggling, apparently laid low by a mutually unhelpful stint in the one-day side.

The sure-footed batsman, who scored three Test centuries last summer, was replaced here by a tentative imitator, scraping 10 runs in 46 balls.

He was frustrated at his slow progress, hitting a wider delivery from Jason Holder and handing Bravo his second catch of the day.

The hosts were firing but soon hit a roadblock in Bell and Root.

England were soon coasting on 295-4 with Bell 122 not out and Ben Stokes on 47 not out.

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