Simmons and Barath batter England
West Indies A 343 for 2 (Simmons 171*, Barath 132, Anderson 1-67) v England
Any hope that Andrew Strauss had of finalising his bowling selection for next week's first Test against West Indies was emphatically quashed on the first day of England's final warm-up match. His attack toiled in the heat at Basseterre, managing just two wickets - the second of which was taken by Kevin Pietersen shortly before the close - as Lendl Simmons and Adrian Barath each hit commanding hundreds.
Kieran Powell was the one man to fall cheaply, pulling Anderson to deep midwicket, but thereafter Simmons and Barath made the most of another very flat surface, against an England attack lacking Andrew Flintoff's control. In what has been billed as a bowl-off to finalise places for the first Test, England's seamers struggled to trouble the pair, though Ryan Sidebottom - returning after a six-month lay-off - did bowl economically and improved over time. His first five-over spell conceded 21 and Andy Flower, England's interim coach, has intimated that he will play in the first Test should he prove his fitness, if not form, in this match.
Simmons, meanwhile, took a particular shine to Graeme Swann, clattering him for four through midwicket and a six over the top, to register his 76-ball fifty. Barath, who doesn't turn 19 until April, was the more subdued of the pair and nearly inside-edged Swann onto his stumps on 18, but he soon found his timing and took advantage of an Anderson full-toss, creaming him through cover.
Steve Harmison, the bowler most under pressure, failed to pick up a wicket but troubled Simmons on several occasions with his bounce - a factor which could easily sway the selectors into opting for him over Anderson if next week's surface at Sabina Park offers pace. Barath's first four took the splice of his bat, flying over the slips, and he had an appeal for a catch in the slips turned down to one which spat. Both players raced to their hundreds, as Strauss turned to Paul Collingwood. He too failed to make an impact, conceding 64 in 13 overs as Simmons moved past 150.
The breakthrough finally came courtesy of the former England captain, Pietersen, who had Barath caught by Collingwood for 132. At stumps, however, Simmons was still unbeaten on 171, his side comfortably positioned on a dominating 343 for 2. For Strauss, the day ended with more questions than when it began.