Windies win thriller in the dark

Sunday, September 26 2004

A month ago, England roughed-up the West Indies at The Brit Oval to register a seventh Test Match victory out of eight in clashes between the two sides this year, and in the process added further gloss to an already lustrous summer. The West Indies emerged bruised, battered and with a host of unanswered questions of coaches, personnel and even captaincy surrounding the camp.

For all England's success in the longer version of the game, a failure to reach the final of their own midsummer triangular series, an event won so comfortably by New Zealand against the West Indies, did not augur well for this, the second-most important one-day tournament in the calendar.

By some margin, the pair had been the most consistent teams in the tournament, brushing aside the more favoured sides comprehensively, some would say with consummate ease. So it was that on a witheringly cool but bright September morning, England and the West Indies had deservedly been invited to assemble in south-east London to do battle for the big prize.

Both sides were unchanged from their excellent semi-final victories, but it was impossible to decide on past performances which team would have the psychological edge. For either, the chance to lift a major piece of silverware was long, long overdue.

Brian Lara won the toss and it came as little surprise when he had no hesitation in asking the home side to have a bat. Michael Vaughan could take some consolation in the fact that England had batted first in crushing Sri Lanka, but it is safe to say that had the coin come down the other way, he would have put the opposition in too.

Ian Bradshaw took the new ball at the Pavilion End and opened to fellow left-hander Marcus Trescothick, the Somerset man doing well to ride a lifting ball to open his account with a single wide of slip. Vikram Solanki, too, was under way early in similar vein before Bradshaw beat Trescothick outside off stump to end a fine first over.

Corey Collymore shared the attack from the Vauxhall End and produced a tremendous delivery to Trescothick that lifted and seamed alarmingly, and early impressions were that it was a very good toss to win indeed. The splendid Bradshaw beat Trescothick all ends up before more good fortune favoured the same batsman when a leading edge looped invitingly into the cover region, only to fall mid-way between two converging fielders.

Ian Bradshaw produced the first vital breakthrough for the West Indies as early as the fifth over, getting the ball to lift and seam away from the defensive push of Solanki (4) just enough to find the outside edge through to Courtney Browne. The keeper made no mistake with the regulation chance to reduce England to 12-1, bringing the England captain to the wicket rather earlier than he would have appreciated.

A very watchful Michael Vaughan spurned a wide half-volley before nudging his first run off his hip as the West Indies kept a very tight rein on proceedings, then a wide ball from the hitherto immaculate Bradshaw was spanked through the covers by Vaughan for the first boundary of the game. Trescothick showed that he, too, could put away the bad ball with a signature slash through point off the same bowler.

Two consecutive maiden overs kept England's scoring rate well under control before Trescothick loosened the shackles again with consecutive boundaries on both sides of the wicket as Collymore erred in both line and length. Another four over midwicket and a couple past square leg further damaged Collymore's analysis as England ended the 10th over on 41-1.

Bradshaw's fine spell earned him further reward as Michael Vaughan tried to cut a ball that appeared to keep low and nip back a little. Instead of the regulation single to third man, it only brought the rattle of disturbed timber and the England skipper's early demise for a disappointing 7.

Trescothick bludgeoned one straight through Chris Gayle at a short point position, the normally unflappable Gayle looking decidedly 'uncool' as he was grateful to retain all his appendages on such a cold day. A wide from Bradshaw took England past 50 in the 13th over, then Andrew Strauss demonstrated that he can play the square cut every bit as powerfully as Trescothick.

The innovative Lara introduced Chris Gayle into the attack as early as the 14th over and the off-spinner seemed to be keeping matters very tight, but dreadful fielding at deep midwicket by Wavell Hinds turned a regulation lap for a single into four to Trescothick. At the end of the 15th over, it would have been the West Indies who would have been marginally the happier with the situation, England having progressed to 63-2.

England seemed content to push singles at this stage but as soon as Gayle dropped marginally short to Strauss, the Johannesburg-born Middlesex man lost no time in pulling the ball to the midwicket boundary. The introduction of Dwayne Bravo into the attack produced a decidedly scruffy over, a mixed bag of wide and short balls yet conversely it produced a wicket as the bowler pounced athletically on the ball to run out a hesitant Strauss for 18.

Corey Collymore completed his ten overs very early in the proceedings, ending wicketless but he had done an excellent job for his side. Now it was a case of seeing whether the West Indies could remove Andrew Flintoff before he could do any major damage. A couple of nudged singles from the big man seemed to indicate that he was content to bide his time with the innings very much in the balance.

The introduction of Wavell Hinds changed everything. His first ball, short, was instantly pounced upon by Flintoff (3), but instead of smiting the ball through midwicket he only succeeded in picking out Brian Lara who took a simply astonishing catch one handed, an inch off the ground. The West Indian captain looked understandably delighted as he bagged his hundredth, best and most important catch in one-day internationals all at the same time.

The West Indies at this stage were keeping things extremely tight, but new batsman Paul Collingwood signalled his intent with a lofted drive straight back over the head of Wavell Hinds to bring up the England hundred in the 25th over.

A firm push for a single took Trescothick on to his 20th fifty in one-day internationals, then a delivery from Hinds seemed to go right through the top of the pitch, something which seemed to indicate that a score in excess of 220 might take some getting. Bravo's bowling continued to be something of a curate's egg, plenty of excellent offerings but with enough wides to keep Rudy Koertzen warm.

England, conscious of the necessity of keeping wickets in hand, remained seemingly content to push the ball around for a while. When the drinks trolley was called on to the field of play for the second time, they had progressed to 119 for the loss of 4 wickets, still a long way from setting a daunting target.

Bravo and Hinds continued in tandem, turning the screw tighter and tighter through the 'middle overs' of the game, and if ever an example of just what pressure can do was required by anyone, it was admirably demonstrated in the 33rd over. Paul Collingwood (16), having found himself tied down, tried to smear Hinds over long on but only succeeded in lobbing the ball tamely to Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

A more than welcome boundary, the first for three quarters of an hour, saw Trescothick moving into the sixties as light rain started to fall, then Geraint Jones, the last of England's recognised batsmen, opened his account with a single to square leg. The re-introduction of Bradshaw into the attack saw Trescothick cracking another boundary through point before firing another over midwicket as England sought to re-group yet again.

Predictably, another England player hit the self-destruct button and once again it was Hinds who benefited. A becalmed Geraint Jones (6) gave Hinds the charge, only to swat the ball straight to Lara who had positioned himself perfectly at short midwicket. Lara, having a golden game in the field, timed his jump to perfection to clutch the ball out of the sky and England were six down with only 148 on the board.

A tremendous piece of timing saw Ashley Giles drill a half-volley from Hinds back past the bowler for a rare boundary, but the bowler still finished with the remarkable analysis of 3-24, a career-best by some margin. A slog-sweep brought another boundary to Trescothick , this times off Gayle as the opener continued to bat very impressively, but he enjoyed a let-off when Browne was unable to hang on to a difficult chance of the returning Bradshaw.

It could be argued that Lara, for the first time in the game, had missed a trick by not having a slip to Bradshaw as again an edge flashed to the boundary, this time to the benefit of Giles as England sought to accelerate in the last few overs. Eventually, the slip was moved in place but Giles then exploited the resultant gap in the covers, driving sumptuously for four. Bradshaw's figures had taken a bit of a mauling at the end of his spell, but he had given the West Indies the vital early breakthroughs.

A desperately diving Ricardo Powell just failed to haul in a Trescothick paddle-sweep at short fine leg, then a Giles single took the partnership past 50 at better than a run a ball. The next over, a drive through extra cover took the team total on to 200 and at the same time took Trescothick on to three figures for the eighth time in his career. It had been an excellent innings made in difficult circumstances and was largely responsible for England having any total at all to bowl at.

More brilliance from Lara was responsible for the demise of Trescothick (104), smartly run out at the bowler's end as England looked to score off everything in the last three overs. Giles went, slogging Bravo to Lara for a fine 31 in the pursuit of quick runs, bus as occasionally happens at the death, they completely lost their way. Darren Gough was stumped for a first-ball duck before Steve Harmison ran himself out with two balls to go.

England had somehow managed to claw themselves up to 217 with Marcus Trescothick's century a rare jewel that shone brightly in the gloom. For the West Indies, Collymore had been commendably economical but their highlight, apart from the brilliance of the fielding in general and Lara's in particular, had been the bowling of Wavell Hinds.

The West Indian innings got under way following a brief interruption for rain, the usually poker-straight Darren Gough opening with two wides which saw seven runs on the board before a legal delivery had been bowled. Wavell Hinds prodded a single to open his personal account before Steve Harmison, too, started with a short one down the leg-side.

Gough, continuing to struggle for line and length, was driven majestically through the covers for four by Gayle before the veteran came back well, troubling Hinds on more than one occasion. Harmison, as we have seen frequently of late, grabbed the vital early breakthrough for England. First of all, he pegged Wavell Hinds firmly on to the back foot before slipping in the fuller delivery. Hinds (3) shaped to turn the ball to midwicket but only succeeded in getting a leading edge to a leaping Vikram Solanki in the covers with the total on 19.

Chris Gayle turned Gough for a boundary past square leg, a shot which had the batsman clutching at the back of his leg, but Gayle seemed unimpaired by any injury as he smote the next one through the covers. New batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan was soon up and running, creaming one from Harmison past point as the West Indies continued to attack the bowling with gusto.

Gough came back well with a steady maiden to the flailing Gayle, then Harmison troubled Sarwan with one that climbed and left him sharply. Two balls later, the big Durham paceman produced the unplayable again, this time to Gayle, but Bradman with a coal shovel would have been hard-pressed to touch it.

The introduction of Andrew Flintoff was, as usual, eventful. His first ball drew the squared-up prod from Sarwan (5) and Andrew Strauss, wide at second slip, took as good a slip catch as has been taken this summer to leave the West Indies less than comfortable on 35-2.

Brian Lara was off the mark first ball, turning Flintoff to fine leg for a single, before Gayle launched his own assault on the bowling of Harmison, straight-driving and slashing for successive boundaries. Two balls later, Gayle's innings of potential was reduced to the mere memory of a cameo, out for 23. An attempted pull went off the cue-end of the bat, straight back to Harmison as the third West Indian wicket went down with the total on 49.

The West Indian 50 was raised in the 11th over when Lara pushed Flintoff comfortably into the covers, then Harmison came within an inch of getting rid of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the ball just falling short of Geraint Jones. Brian Lara turned his attention to the bowling of Andrew Flintoff, clobbering a length ball over midwicket for four, then Flintoff came back with a short one which struck Lara a painful blow on the left elbow.

After lengthy treatment to Lara and an impromptu drinks interval, the game resumed with Flintoff defeating Lara outside off stump. Chanderpaul threaded a ball of fullish length from Harmison through the covers for four, then he too received a painful blow on the elbow as the ball came within a whisker of rebounding onto the stumps. The 15th over ended with Chanderpaul driving Flintoff for four as the West Indies moved on to 67-3.

Alex Wharf replaced the splendid Steve Harmison at the Vauxhall End, immediately defeating the defensive push of Lara to the accompaniment of a cry of anguish from the bowler. The over ended with Wharf all but getting through the defences of Lara again, and with the West Indian captain making gestures about the failing light.

Lara flayed Flintoff for four through the covers, but two balls later the greatest West Indian batsman for a generation came to the end of might well be prove to be his last international appearance in England when he edged the same bowler to wicketkeeper Geraint Jones for just 14. So much now fell on the shoulders of Chanderpaul, and he instantly took the attack to Wharf with a crisp on-drive to the midwicket boundary.

England continued to be every bit as profligate with the wides as the West Indies were earlier in the day, but in the midst of the wayward ones, there were more than a few on the money. So it was that Bravo departed for a disappointing duck, the thinnest of edges from Flintoff giving Jones his second catch of the innings leaving half of the West Indians back in the dressing room with barely 80 on the board.

The return of Darren Gough saw Chanderpaul stroking then clubbing length balls straight past the bowler for boundaries, then when the bowler tried to push the ball across the dapper left-hander, that too received similar treatment through the covers as the over was despatched for 13. In a surprise move, Michael Vaughan turned to Marcus Trescothick from the Pavilion End, and after the by now almost requisite couple of wides, he produced two absolute Jaffas which left Chanderpaul groping at air.

Ryan Hinds edged Wharf over the uninhabited gulley region for a much-needed boundary, but when he faced Trescothick in the following over, the edge only went as far as the waiting gauntlets of Geraint Jones for 6. The West Indies were 114-6, still over a hundred shy of victory, and new man to the crease Ricardo Powell represented their last recognised batsman.

Powell dismissively swatted a short ball from Trescothick past mid-on for four as the balance continued to shift between the two teams, then Paul Collingwood became the sixth seam-up bowler to be used by England with Giles still unemployed. Flintoff was thrust back into the attack as England recognised that this partnership could take the game away from them in a moment, but the extra pace came to Powell's aid when an outside edge flew past third man for a boundary.

Ricardo Powell (14) departed with the total on 135 in what was a mirror image of the dismissal of Geraint Jones earlier in the day. The seemingly innocuous Collingwood was given the charge, the ball came off the inside edge of the bat and instead of racing away to the midwicket boundary, went straight into the safe hands of Trescothick at the by now familiar Lara position of short midwicket.

Flintoff, bowling round the wicket, beat Chanderpaul twice in succession outside off stump with extravagant seam movement as now it was England's turn to apply the pressure. Courtney Browne punched a single to extra cover off Collingwood, then Chanderpaul broke the shackles with a flick to fine leg for a much-needed boundary to reduce the total below 80.

Vaughan, using his pacers in short spells, Replaced Flintoff with Alex Wharf and the Bradford-born seamer allowed just a couple of singles off the first over of his second spell. Suddenly the hitherto unmoveable Chanderpaul was undone, and once again it was Collingwood who produced the breakthrough on 147. Out-thought for once, Chanderpaul (47) played a little too soon and spooned it up off the leading edge to a delighted Vaughan at cover.

The 150 was raised courtesy of an edged boundary by Bradshaw off the otherwise economical Wharf, but at this stage there only seemed to be one likely outcome, an outcome Vaughan sought to accelerate with the return of Steve Harmison. His first ball to Bradshaw was right up in the block-hole, but the Barbadian comfortably squeezed it out to mid-on for a couple.

Browne crashed Harmison square through the off side for a boundary to reduce the target below 50 as the West Indies continued to chip away at the target, and when a Gough full-toss was put away by Bradshaw, the requirement was for just 40 more of the same. The pair were looking more and more comfortable, even as Harmison cranked it up another notch to a whisker under 97 miles per hour.

With the light closing in once again, Flintoff seemed to have Browne trapped in front but a huge appeal was instantly rebuffed. The batsmen surprised everyone by turning down an offer of the light, but Bradshaw demonstrated that he was having no difficulty in seeing the ball as two thumping drives off Collingwood went to the fence to reduce the target below 30.

The target now was simple. The West Indies required just 24 to win from five overs. Gough, so out of sorts on this day, returned for one last effort, but his first ball was squeezed down to third man for a couple. Then, a quick single took the partnership for the ninth wicket to 50. Another single, then yet another wide - the 19th of the innings meant that, suddenly, less than 20 were needed.

Wharf, back into the attack, gave nothing away until Bradshaw managed to pinch a single off the fourth ball to bring up the 200. Gough came in to bowl his last six balls as it became patently obvious that either Collingwood, Trescothick or Giles would have to bowl an over. Singles off each of the first five balls ensured that the last two overs would start with twelve runs required.

Wharf to Browne, the batsman, peering through the murk, swung and missed. The next ball was over-pitched and worse still, a no-ball, the scampered brace reducing the ask to single figures. Another swing, a boundary to Browne, battling like a hero, then finally a single took the West Indies to 214, a tantalising four runs shy. Just one boundary more needed - and Bradshaw supplied it, a splendid, clubbing drive square of the wicket.

The West Indies had somehow extracted an incredible, thrilling victory from a position that would have had players of yesteryear looking for the nearest bookmaker. Thanks to Browne(35*) and Bradshaw (34*), the ninth wicket had added a quite remarkable 71 runs to carry the West Indians over the finishing line in light which had been poor over half an hour before the end, and that had deteriorated still further as each minute passed.

England 217 (Trescothick 104, W Hinds 3-24, Bradshaw 2-54)
West Indies 218-8 (Chanderpaul 47, Flintoff 3-38, Harmison 2-35, Collingwood 2-21)

West Indies won by 2 wickets

Cricket Web Man of the Match : Marcus Trescothick

Posted by Eddie