NORTH SOUND - England made an early strike in pursuit of their first-ever Test victory in Antigua after setting the West Indies an improbable 438 for victory on the fourth day of the first Test against the West Indies on Thursday.

At tea at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, the home side were nine for one after opening batsman Kraigg Brathwaite fended off a lifting delivery in Stuart Broad's first over to Joe Root, leaving his opening partner, Devon Smith, and new batsman Darren Bravo to carry the fight into the last session of the day. England's rush for runs in the afternoon session resulted in a declaration at 333 for seven, Gary Ballance getting to 122, his fourth Test century.

Playing in just his ninth Test match, the Zimbabwe-born left-hander got good support from Root and Ben Stokes in continuing to dominate a deflated Caribbean bowling attack in the morning, 108 runs coming in the two hours' play for just the loss of Root's wicket. Ballance and Root extended their overnight fourth-wicket partnership to 114 when the right-hander played on to fast-medium bowler Jason Holder for the second time in the match. His knock of 59 followed a vital contribution of 81 in the first innings.

In conditions tailormade for batting, he was obviously bitterly disappointed at not being able to carry on to three figures. Jos Buttler dominated the run-chase in the second session however.  Coming to the crease after Ben Stokes was stumped off the bowling of Sulieman Benn almost immediately after lunch, he smashed his way to an unbeaten 59 and made the task considerably easier for his captain, Alastair Cook, in arriving at a declaration that would give his bowlers a few overs at the West Indies top order before the break.

Reputed as a fluent stroke-maker, Ballance's innings was a determined, watchful effort.  He faced 250 deliveries in just over five hours at the crease, stroking 11 fours and two sixes before the quest for quick runs brought about his demise to the persevering Benn. None of the home side's bowlers appeared threatening, and with only four specialists chosen in the final 11 -- a tactic designed more to save the match than to win it -- a tiring attack wilted under the withering attack of the England batsmen.





(OVERNIGHT: 116-3)

A Cook c Benn b Taylor    13

J Trott c wkpr Ramdin b Taylor    4

G Ballance c Blackwood b Benn    122

I Bell run out    11

J Root b Holder    59

B Stokes stpd Ramdin b Benn    35

J Buttler not out    59

C Jordan c Bravo b Roach    13

EXTRAS: (b-1, lb-6, w-5, nb-5)    17

TOTAL: (7 wkts decl, 86 overs)    333

FOW: 1-15, 2-20, 3-52, 4-166, 5-226, 6-281, 7-333

BOWLING: Taylor 14-5-42-2, Roach 14-1-53-1, Holder 17-5-63-1, Benn 26-3-115-2, Samuels 15-0-53-0.


K Brathwaite c Root b Broad    5

D Smith not out    3

D Bravo not out    1

TOTAL (1 wicket, 5 overs)    9

FOW: 1-7

BOWLING: Anderson 2-0-5-0, Broad 2-1-4-1, Tredwell 1-1-0-0.

UMPIRES: Billy Bowden and Steve Davis

TV UMPIRE: Bruce Oxenford (AUS)