ST GEORGE'S - Joe Root and Garry Ballance reclaimed the initiative for England who reached 253 for three in reply to the West Indies first innings total of 299 at tea on the third day of the second Test on Thursday.

Fast bowler Shannon Gabriel ended Alastair Cook's quest for a first Test century in more than two years and quickly removed Ian Bell, a century-maker in the drawn first Test, to reduce the visitors to 164 for three early in the afternoon. However the obdurate Ballance (47 not out) and the fluent Root (51 not out) progressed through the rest of the session without difficulty.

The tall, right-handed Root was the more aggressive and impressive in dominating a fourth-wicket partnership of 89 by the tea break. His tenth half-century in Test cricket spanned 70 deliveries and was decorated by eight boundaries. Root's arrival in the middle came with the West Indies buoyant after the demise of Cook and Bell within the space of five runs.

Both played on to the burly fast bowler, the England captain's dismissal for 76 causing particular anguish for the left-hander given the considerable media attention being given to the fact that his last Test hundred was scored in March, 2013 against New Zealand in Dunedin. Ballance, who also got to three figures in the second innings of the drawn Antigua test, arrived at the crease late in the morning session when Jonathan Trott fell for 59 to Devendra Bishoo.

Jermaine Blackwood held on to a good catch at second slip to break an opening stand of 125 as the South African-born player drove at the leg-spinner.  It was the first century opening stand for England in a Test since that same Dunedin match where Cook got his last three-figure score. In conditions ideal for batting, the England top-order appeared more concerned with eliminating risks than dominating the bowlers, especially the faster ones, who hardly posed any serious threats on a placid pitch.

That ultra-defensive posture was only altered when Root replaced Bell in the middle, the 24-year-old Yorkshireman injecting a sense of urgency to the batting and forcing West Indies captain Denesh Ramdin to resort to part-time bowlers Marlon Samuels and Blackwood to hasten the arrival of the second new ball.

England moved within 46 runs of West Indies' first innings total as they reached 253 for three at tea on the third day of the second test in Grenada on Thursday.

The tourists added 110 runs in the afternoon for the loss of two wickets and with Gary Ballance (47) and Joe Root (51) unbeaten, they will hope to power on in the third session of the day. Skipper Alastair Cook moved on to 76 before he was bowled by Shannon Gabriel, dragging a bottom edge on to the stumps and leaving him still searching for his first test century in almost two years.

Gabriel, playing in this match in place of the injured Jerome Taylor, then forced Ian Bell (one) to play the ball on to his stumps following an ill-judged attempt to cut. The two strikes offered encouragement to a West Indies attack that bowled with discipline on a wicket that is good for batting.

But the confident Root and Ballance stopped any momentum shift towards the hosts and picked up the scoring tempo. Cook's 125-run opening partnership with Jonathan Trott (59) laid the foundations for England.

Trott was dismissed when he edged a full ball from leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo to Jermaine Blackwood at second slip. It was England's first century opening stand since March 2013.

Scoreboard

WEST INDIES 1ST INNINGS: 299

ENGLAND 1ST INNINGS:

(OVERNIGHT: 74-0)

A Cook b Gabriel    76

J Trott c Blackwood b Bishoo    59

G Balance not out    47

I Bell b Gabriel    1

J Root not out    51

EXTRAS: (b-5 lb-2 nb-11 w-1)    19

TOTAL: (for 3 wckts, 91 overs)    253

FOW: 1-125, 2-159, 3-164

BOWLING: K Roach 19-2-62-0, S Gabriel 16-3-42-2, J Holder 14-4-37-0, D Bishoo 29-9-72-1, M Samuels 12-4-19-0, J Blackwood 1-0-14-0.

TOSS: ENGLAND