Joe Root ton puts England on course for third Test victory over West Indies in St Lucia

ENGLAND finally discovered their MoJoe as Joe Denly scored his maiden fifty and Joe Root reached Test century No.16.

Denly’s 69 came after a torrid time in his previous three Test innings and could have joyous, long-term consequences.

Joe Root hit a century to put England in control of the third Test in St Lucia
Joe Root hit a century to put England in control of the third Test in St Lucia
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Joe Root and Joe Denly finally got going to help England towards a huge lead
Joe Root and Joe Denly finally got going to help England towards a huge lead
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It means that, although not a certainty for this summer’s Ashes, he sure as heck has a chance.

Root, who managed just 55 runs in his first five innings of the series, returned to near his best as England seized an iron grip on the dead-rubber Third Test.

There is little more comforting for England than seeing their captain compiling big scores – but he will say it is two Tests too late.

For the first time in the series, England had a day dominating the West Indies attack – although they were a bowler down because Keemo Paul was wheeled away on a stretcher with a thigh injury.

With Jos Buttler – who would also be called Joe if his elder sister was not Jo – compiling a half-century, England reached 325-4 by the close of day three – a lead of 448.

It would be a major surprise if England don’t win here and reduce their series deficit to 2-1.

Joe Root has endured a tough time in the Caribbean but will hope to guide his team to a consolation win in St Lucia
Joe Root has endured a tough time in the Caribbean but will hope to guide his team to a consolation win in St Lucia
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Kent batsman Denly batted with considerable assurance and unleashed several stylish cover drives.

He was furious to get out to a soft shot when beginning to contemplate a century in only his second Test appearance.

But Denly’s performance puts him firmly in the frame to be chosen in the one-off Test against Ireland in July and then the Ashes which follow.

Before this match, Denly insisted big runs could nail down a slot against the Aussies. Well, 69 is not big runs – but it is better than Keaton Jennings has managed in this series.

The top three places in the batting order are up for grabs. Surrey’s Rory Burns is likely to secure one of them while Denly is competing with the likes of James Vince, Jason Roy, Joe Clarke and even Ian Bell for the other two.

Several more contenders could emerge with a runs bonanza in the early weeks of the season.

One problem for Denly is that he will miss several county championship matches while playing for Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League – and the chance to display strong early-summer form.

But, make no mistake, at the age of 32, he has a once-in-a-lifetime hope of playing in a home Ashes series.

The same is unlikely to be said for Jennings, who scored 23 before being bowled after the ball snagged the bottom of his thigh pad and deflected onto the stumps.

It was unlucky although he probably should have been able to hit the ball with his bat after 90 minutes at the crease.

Keaton Jennings was unfortunate to be bowled after the ball ricocheted off his pads
Keaton Jennings was unfortunate to be bowled after the ball ricocheted off his pads
AP:Associated Press

Deep down, Jennings probably knows his England career is over – unless he can overhaul his robotic technique and pile on runs for Lancashire over the next couple of years.

Burns clipped the first ball of the day from Paul straight to square leg. Yet again, left-hander Burns looked okay before getting out in a daft or tame manner.

He will look back on his first six-Test winter realising that, although he batted okay, he should have made more significant and match-defining scores.

Shortly afterwards, Paul strained a quad muscle chasing a ball to the boundary and did not re-appear.

Denly was badly dropped on 12 by Shimron Hetmyer after he failed to keep down a Shannon Gabriel lifter. It was a really dolly catch but replays suggested Gabriel had overstepped and it would have been a no-ball.

After that, Denly played positively and generally looked the part.

Joe Root collides with Shane Dowrich as he battles to make his ground
Joe Root collides with Shane Dowrich as he battles to make his ground
Getty Images – Getty

His departure was tame, however, as he attempted to cut a wide long hop from Alzarri Joseph and toe-ended a catch behind. It was a virtual carbon copy of his first innings dismissal in the previous Test.

Root and Buttler then put on 107 for the fourth wicket and, with slow men Roston Chase and Kraigg Brathwaite trundling away, there were some rare cheap runs on offer.

But the outstanding Kemar Roach dispatched Buttler with a ripping leg-cutter with the second new ball.

Root reached his century with a straight drive for four from a Joseph full toss and Ben Stokes received a cocktail of glares, smiles and bouncers from Gabriel on his way to finishing 29 not out.

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