England centurion Ben Stokes welcomed the return of cut-and-thrust Test cricket as the West Indies proved they were back up for the battle on day one at Headingley.
The tourists were written off as impostors and also-rans after their day/night drubbing in the Investec Series opener at Edgbaston but fought back impressively, dismissing England for 258 as Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel shrugged aside some costly dropped catches to share eight wickets.
Two of those fielding errors allowed England to add 142 runs, Stokes making exactly 100 after being handed a life on nine and Joe Root posting 59 having been grassed on eight.
England might have had it easy in Birmingham but Stokes was happy to be in a scrap again, even when Gabriel, who had put him down on 98, ended his fun and sent him packing with some choice words.
“It’s not the first time,” laughed Stokes, a veteran of many verbal duels.
“He was still probably a little bit annoyed at himself for dropping me on 98, but it comes with the game. He got me out. It’s international sport, you’re all trying to do well and emotions can come out. No worries whatsoever.
“I thought their seam bowling unit bowled a lot better than Edgbaston and made it hard work for us.
“We said as a team in the changing rooms it’s probably not one of our best days with the bat but we never know if it’s a good score until their innings has finished. It’s how we respond in the morning.”
Stokes had a colourful phrase of his own to describe the ambitious stroke that could have seen him miss out on a sixth Test hundred, an agricultural hack that was grassed by Gabriel at mid-on.
“It was a brain fart. I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I got away with that one but I’m not quite sure what I was thinking, trying to hit [Roach] back over his head.”
The all-rounder offered a more considered view on Root’s continuing contribution, the captain having equalled AB de Villiers’ world record of reaching 50 in 12 successive Tests.
“He is one hell of a player and has been for a long time now,” said Stokes.
“The captaincy hasn’t affected his run-scoring whatsoever, in fact it’s probably made him into a better player if that was possible.
“There are guys around the world who are known as the best in world and we’ve got one of them, if not the best.”
The impressive Roach suggested the attack were spurred on by their own shortcomings last time and backed the batsmen to follow suit when they resume on 19 for one.
“We had a very open discussion in our team meetings,” he said. “The guys were totally honest with themselves that we weren’t good enough in the first Test. We have a point to prove.
“The batsmen have been working hard in the nets and no doubt I’m looking for some big things from them.”