Vaughan in dream Test return

England captain Michael Vaughan marked his return to the Test team in dream fashion, slamming a chanceless and rapturously-received century in front of his home crowd (whom he had not played a Test in front of for three years) to put his side in a position of strength, if not dominance, at the close of the opening day of the Second Test against West Indies. Kevin Pietersen emulated his captain and remains unbeaten at the close with his team at 366 for 5, despite the fact that a slow rate caused 5 overs to be lost.

West Indies were handed a shock shortly before the toss, when Shivnarine Chanderpaul was ruled-out with knee tendonitis, while England, a little unexpectedly, plumped for Ryan Sidebottom ahead of James Anderson. Vaughan’s return to the side was given the best possible start when he won the toss, and on a pitch with few signs of devils elected to bat first.

Whereas Jerome Taylor had been given the new ball in the first-innings at Lord’s, Ramnaresh Sarwan this time threw it to Corey Collymore. Neither he nor Daren Powell got the brand-new cherry to swing under sunny skies, however, and Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook had few alarms and indeed capitalised on a succession of loose deliveries from both bowlers. The pitch played as expected, extremely slow with tennis-ball bounce. Unfortunately for Strauss, however, he failed to capitalise as after reaching 15 he received a wide long-hop from Powell, the sort of delivery he would expect to put away every time, which caught to toe of the bat and was snaffled by Denesh Ramdin. This brought the captain to the crease, a man with more to prove than most have had in a career.

Vaughan started in a decidedly cautious manner, easing a full-toss from Powell through gully for two and managing just one other scoring stroke in his first 33 balls. His timing was not a problem; his placement was, with a large proportion of his strokes ending-up at gully. Cook at the other end looked, as he has done throughout the summer, utterly untroubled. Eventually, Vaughan began to find his feet, and kick-started his innings with a characteristic pull-stroke to the boundary from Powell’s bowling. He followed-up two balls later with a similar stroke on which he rolled the wrists, with a fielder having been put back. Leading up to the lunch break, the scoring-rate increased with 38 in 9 overs. Sarwan brought Gayle, once again his sole slow-bowling option, into the attack for the last over before the break. And the change worked: last ball of the over, Cook missed a straight ball. No matter that Sky’s HawkEye showed the ball was likely to have gone over the stumps, Umpire Rauf had no hesitation in upholding the appeal. Cook would have been frustrated at his lapse of concentration, as the ball neither turned nor beat him in the flight.

After the break, Vaughan received a succession of deliveries which drifted onto his pads, and cashed-in while Pietersen cautiously took 32 balls over his first 8 runs, and saw an edge off Dwayne Bravo fall just short of the two gullies. Just as Pietersen looked to be hitting his stride, however, he advanced down the wicket to Gayle and missed the ball by a fair margin, falling victim as Cook had to a lack of turn. Umpire Rauf, however, had called no-ball, and Ramdin’s despairing removal of the bails suggested he might have been aware how much Gayle’s indiscretion was going to cost his team. He was right. Despite Sarwan posting sweepers on both sides of the wicket, Vaughan and Pietersen found gaps virtually effortlessly, and at tea had taken their side to a comfortable position of 222-2. Vaughan, moreover, was just 8 runs away from marking his comeback a dream manner. His driving had been as good as at any point in his career; his leg-side play sound; and his running, perhaps most importantly, apparently effortless. There was no sign of problems on the right hand which had had a broken digit just a week ago, either.

Despite a short wait in the perhaps-slightly-nervous nineties, Vaughan eventually edged a Bravo away-swinger along the ground through the vacant third-slip position and positively screamed in delight. Pietersen was no less thrilled for his captain, and a full house at Vaughan’s home ground stood, along with the dressing-room, to salute a man who had fought his way back from what had seemed on several occasions to be a broken career. Disappointingly, Vaughan could not go on, and on 103 he connected well with a pull off Taylor, but saw Runako Morton take a few paces around and nonchalantly catch a ball which, without intervention, would have headed over the rope. He had faced 173 deliveries and struck 11 boundaries.

Paul Collingwood replaced Vaughan, and played remarkably similarly to how he had at Lord’s – edging, being beaten several times, and seeing Gayle grass a difficult one-handed catch at first-slip off the unfortunate Bravo. In between times, he received several deliveries which allowed him to play his favoured clips off the legs, and had raced to 29 before Collymore, who had barely looked like taking a wicket all day, suddenly got the ball to swing as an amount of cloud-cover moved in, and induced an edge. This time, Gayle snapped-up the far easier offering. And two overs later, Collymore produced a virtual repeat delivery to nail Ian Bell from a thinner nick to Ramdin. Despite the swing, which was also generated by Powell at the other end, Pietersen moved serenely on. He had brought-up his first half-century in 67 deliveries, and required a further 37 to reach his second. Prior, who joined him for the final 10 overs, also looked untroubled in moving to 13*. Pietersen, who had hardly made an error after his stumping let-off, will sleep on 130*. Despite the fact that the remaining batsmen all boast Test averages of less than 12, England will be hopeful of a similar score to that of the previous game. West Indies, however, will know that one early strike tomorrow allows them a chance to bowl England out for less than 400. Having been 254-2 at one stage, such a score would be a disappointment for the home side.

England 366 for 5
Michael Vaughan 103, Kevin Pietersen 130*, Alastair Cook 42

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