England close in on series win

A day of uninspiring cricket at Old Trafford was brightened by Alistair Cook’s sixth Test century and Darren Sammy’s 7 wicket haul on debut as England efficiently closed in on a victory in the third Test of the series against the touring West Indians to seal the series, whilst the West Indians blundered their was through the day in the field but were given the tiniest hope of victory by Sammy’s destruction of the English lower order.

Cook moved onto an assured 106 from his overnight score of 12, anchoring England’s stretching of their first innings lead from 141 to 455. His first partner of the day was Michael Vaughan. The pair started confidently, taking 5 off Collymore’s first over of the day and 9 off Edwards’ second. Both players looked in control as England’s score moved onto 99. However, Sammy made his first mark on the innings, taking a sharp return catch from a sweetly timed drive from Vaughan to remove the England captain for 40.

The sight of Kevin Pietersen marching to the crease to replace Vaughan would not have been what the West Indians would have ideally hoped for, though. The man at number 3 in the LG ICC Test batting rankings settled into his stride well and, with Cook, set about playing England towards a position to declare.

Their task was eagerly aided the the tourists’ ineptitude in the field, with Cook dropped on 42 when he hooked straight to Collymore at deep square leg, and their lack of intensity, such as plying the pair with 11 overs of full tosses and the occasional leg break from very part time bowler, Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Chanderpaul was duly milked for 43, though not punished as he should have been. Bowling in tandem with Chanderpaul for much of his spell was Chris Gayle, who was unexpected to bowl after coming into the game with a rib complaint, whilt the pick of the West Indian bowlers – Dwayne Bravo and Fidel Edwards were confined to fielding for much of the afternoon session. The West Indian cause was not aided by Bravo pulling up lame in his eighth over after finally getting a bowl, though.

However, it could have been much better had the West Indian fielding not been so sloppy. Pietersen, marred by his occasional lapses in concentration, casually cut a rare Chanderpaul delivery that pitched towards Chris Gayle at slip. Gayle, however, was not standing low enough and only managed to parry the ball off his boot. Having just passed his 50, Pietersen erred again, looping a Chris Gayle delivery to Runako Morton at mid on. Morton flapped about and forgot to cling on to the catch above his head, allowing the batsmen to run 2 and bring up the 100 partnership.

Through this all, Cook remained solid, edging towards his hundred. He lost his partner in freak circumstances though. A Dwayne Bravo bouncer caught Pietersen, on 68, by surprise, striking the England batsman on the helmet, which fell onto the stumps as the strap holding it tight to Pietersen’s head broke. Pietersen staggered off still dazed. It was a fortuitious wicket which the West Indians hadn’t deserved.

Paul Collingwood (42) partnered Cook to his sixth Test century, reached shortly after tea, and the pair saw England’s lead past 400. However, Cook only added 6 more to his score before being given out to a dubious lbw shout by Gayle.

Suddenly, the hosts collapsed. Debutant and first St Lucian to play for the West Indies, Sammy, ran through England’s next three batsmen in just one over. Ian Bell (2) edged a beauty to ‘keeper Dinesh Ramdin He was followed b back to the pavilion by his replacement Prior the next ball. The England wicket-keeper pushed at a wide one and edged through to his opposite number to give Sammy his third wicket. However, the hat-trick ball was played at and missed by Liam Plunkett. Two balls later he inside edged Sammy onto his thigh and Dwayne Bravo took a spectacular diving catch to remove the Durham man without scoring, though.

Left with the tail, Collingwood found a sense of urgency, lofting Gayle for a straight six the next over. However, at the other end a short, sweet innings of 16 played by Steve Harmison was finished by Sammy and Collingwood shared his fellow geordie’s fate in the St Lucian’s next over. Last man, Monty Panesar, poked his last ball to Gayle at slip to give Sammy his seventh wicket after a quite remarkable spell of bowling, and set the West Indies 455 to win.

A difficult spell of 8 overs was their first obstacle in trying to get something out of the match, though. It was an obstacle captain Daren Ganga failed to negotiate, falling lbw to an increasingly rare straight delivery from Harmison to leave his side at 4-1. Gayle and Smith fared better, though with England possessing two day to get nine wickets, just “better” won’t do.

England 370
Ian Bell 97, Alastair Cook 60
Corey Collymore 3-60, Fidel Edwards 3-94

West Indies 229
Shivnarine Chanderpaul 50, Devon Smith 40
Monty Panesar 4-50, Ryan Sidebottom 3-48

England 313
Alastair Cook 106, Kevin Pietersen 68
Darren Sammy 7-66, Dwayne Bravo 1-14

West Indies 22-1
Chris Gayle 11*, Devon Smith 10*
Steve Harmison 1-7

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