An unbeaten century from Jonny Bairstow spared England’s blushes after a familiar top-order collapse in the first Test against the West Indies in Antigua on Tuesday.

The big ‘red-ball reset’ saw the Three Lions make six changes to their side from the defeat in the final Ashes Test in Hobart. The record-breaking seam duo of Stuart Broad and James Anderson were left out, with 28-year-old Yorkshire batsman Alex Lees making his debut at the top of the order. 

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Travelling England fans were back at an away Test ground to support their team for the first time in two years, but had very little to cheer on as the hosts came out flying after Joe Root won the toss and chose to bat, with the visitors reduced to 48 for the loss of four within the first session.

However, a determined Bairstow prevented another embarrasing outing, stitching three fifty partnerships on his way to an unbeaten 109 from 216 deliveries at the end of the day’s play. 

Bairstow, who hit a century in the drawn Sydney Ashes Test in his last outing in the format, was elated after the performance, saying it was “amazing” to bring up three figures at the venue. 

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“Amazing place to come and score a century. Especially here with the travelling fans who haven’t been able to come for a couple of years, we’re very fortunate to have them. It was really great fun playing over here,” the 32-year-old said. 

Bairstow added 67 with Ben Stokes (36) and 99 with Ben Foakes (42) before an unbeaten partnership of 54 runs with Chris Woakes (24*) took England to 268 for the loss of wight wickets at Stumps.

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“We’ve spoken about partnerships and how crucial it can be. Not just at the top of the order but all the way through. It’s really important we continue that tomorrow. Three big partnerships through the middle of the innings and they were crucial,” Bairstow added. 

For the hosts, Kemar Roach was the pick of the bowlers on the opening day, dismissing debutant Alex Lees (4) and skipper Joe Root (13). Jayden Seales (2/64) and Jason Holder (2/15) were also among the wickets.