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Taylor revived memories of the great West Indian pacemen of old, blowing England away single-handed
February 19, 2010
Best Test Bowling PerformanceJerome Taylor
The noughties were a depressing decade for West Indies, but just occasionally there would be a performance that acted as a reminder of the great deeds from the past. There was the world-record run-chase in Antigua, there were Brian Lara's enduring duels with Muttiah Muralitharan; Chris Gayle launching the ball to all corners, and the epic run-scoring of Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
One instance that transported those watching briefly back to the glory days came in Kingston in February 2009, as Jerome Taylor ripped through England's top order with a scintillating 5 for 11.
In scenes reminiscent of Curtly Ambrose's demolition job at Trinidad in 1994, the tourists crumbled to 51 all out and in the blink of an eye West Indies had secured their first Test victory against England since 2000, by an innings and 23 runs. It came almost out of nowhere, for the Test had moved along slowly with the two first innings using up more than three days.
Centuries from Ramnaresh Sarwan and Chris Gayle formed the backbone for West Indies and the lower order battled hard to secure a precious lead of 74. Still, that surely wasn't a match-winning advantage? Most talk centred on a draw, while locals who had seen so many defeats even expected the home side to eventually fold themselves. How wrong everyone was.
England were already a side in disarray, following the double sacking of Kevin Pietersen and Peter Moores as captain and coach. Andrew Strauss had been thrust into the hot seat alongside Andy Flower, at the time an interim coach, but there was always a sense it wouldn't take much for the sticking plasters to come loose. Taylor sensed his moment and barely bowled a poor delivery with the new ball.
Alastair Cook was the first to fall as he drove loosely to the first delivery of the second over and was taken at the second attempt by Devon Smith at slip, but it was after the lunch break that Sabina Park really came alive. Pietersen was still reeling from losing the captaincy, but had shown his class in the first innings with 97, before trying to reach three figures in grand manner and skying a catch. He was the key wicket and it took Taylor just a single delivery to do the job - and what a wonderful delivery it was.
There was more than a hint of Malcolm Marshall as Taylor glided to the crease then extracted movement with a whippy action. Pietersen thought it was on leg stump and shaped one of his favourite leg-side clips, but the ball swung late and arced past the closing face to rip out the off stump. The ground erupted and you could sense the shock go through the England camp.
Strauss had become stuck during more than an hour at the crease and was the next to depart with a limp edge to the keeper. Each batsman who walked to the crease looked increasingly frazzled, none more so than Paul Collingwood, who set off for a run when he inside-edged onto leg stump - 23 for 5 and the first glimpses towards the record books.
Four balls later Taylor had his fifth, with a ball even better than the one that got Pietersen, because this time he confounded the batsman. Matt Prior was clearly expecting pace, pace and more pace, so Taylor sent down the perfect offcutter, which gripped off a wearing surface and went between bat and pad. Taylor's team-mates could barely catch him in his celebrations, and Usain Bolt, who was watching, would have been proud of the sprinting skills on show.
The game was West Indies' and it didn't take long to seal a famous victory. With Taylor in such hot form a huge bag was on offer, but he couldn't quite sustain the energy levels. He took his leave after nine overs. And what a nine overs they were.
Sadly for Taylor, West Indies cricket and the game as a whole, it was a flash in the pan. They hung on to claim a famous series win, but Taylor was already struggling with injury and the rest of the year was dominated by strikes and the standoff between players and the board. Briefly, though, Taylor showed that the Caribbean game that has provided so many of the game's greatest moments could still capture the imagination.
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Sambit Bal Editor, Cricinfo
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Tony Greig Former England captain, commentator
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