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April 14, 2004
England 285 and 422 for 5 (Vaughan 140, Trescothick 88) drew with West Indies 751 for 5 dec (Lara 400*) to secure a 3-0 series win
Michael Vaughan produced a captain's innings of 140, to put his personal seal on an historic 3-0 series victory in the Caribbean. On a soporific final day in Antigua, the game briefly sparked back to life when West Indies' spinners grabbed three quick wickets with the final hour approaching, but Graham Thorpe and Geraint Jones stemmed the jitters and batted with enough common sense to force Brian Lara to call off the hunt.
It was a peaceful end to a high-octane series, but nothing could dampen the spirits of the Barmy Army, who sang lustily to the bitter end, and no wonder. Only one other side in history has ever pulled off a 3-0 away win in the Caribbean - Ian Johnson's 1954-55 Australians, whose team included such luminaries as Richie Benaud, Keith Miller, Ray Lindwall and Neil Harvey. It remains to be seen whether the likes of Steve Harmison, Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones will be spoken of in the same breath.
After Lara's phenomenal unbeaten 400, England did remarkably well to avoid being crushed by his sheer weight of runs. Despite following on after a first-innings bout of vertigo, Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick had regained England's composure by the fourth evening to close on 145 for 0, and that was the hard part done. It was always going to take something out of the ordinary for West Indies to wrest the initiative back from there.
Both Trescothick and Vaughan were quickly into their stride as the day resumed, cutting and square-driving a West Indian attack that appeared resigned to its fate. The pair had been England's missing links throughout the series, but by the time their partnership ended at 182, they had almost exactly doubled their tally from seven previous efforts.
It took a bizarre dismissal to separate them. Trescothick had moved to within 12 of his hundred, when he played forward to a full-length slower ball from Edwards, and somehow squeezed a catch to Ramnaresh Sarwan in the covers. It was a puzzling end to a cathartic innings, and Trescothick was as bemused as any onlooker as he trudged off - had he not checked his shot, he would surely have played it straight into the ground.
Vaughan, however, was determined to seal the series with a captain's knock, and he crashed to his hundred with a gorgeous cover-drive off Edwards, and then followed up with another one in the same over, just for good measure. He had one scare on 99, when Tino Best skimmed his bails with an offcutter as he shouldered arms, but Vaughan would no doubt put it down to impeccable judgment. This was the third time in four English follow-ons that he had made a century, and it was his most significant batting contribution since a similarly backs-to-the-wall effort against Sri Lanka at Kandy last December.
After lunch, and with Lara off the field, the game began to drift as West Indies' spinners wheeled away and Vaughan moved effortlessly towards another milestone. But Sarwan, West Indies' stand-in captain, brought himself into the attack and in his very first over, he rolled a legbreak across Vaughan's bows for Ridley Jacobs to snaffle a faint deflection off the glove. Vaughan was gone for 140, and England weren't entirely out of the woods just yet.
After their crucial contributions earlier in the series, Nasser Hussain and Mark Butcher were the perfect partnership to carry England to safety. Hussain, who was undoubtedly playing in his final innings in the Caribbean, bristled with attacking intent, with Best's comeback over with the new ball disappearing for 11 runs. Butcher, meanwhile, sailed past his fourth fifty of the series - a metaphor for England's serene progress.
But it wouldn't have been fair to let the series drift away without a final plot twist, and it was the innocuous spin of Ryan Hinds who sparked the final session into life. His first victim was Butcher, who had made 61 when he aimed a heave over midwicket and snicked a thin edge through to Chris Gayle at first slip (366 for 3). It was so thin, in fact, that Gayle wasn't fully aware that he had made the breakthrough.
Four overs later, Hinds struck again as Hussain swept ambitiously out of the rough and was bowled round his legs for 56 (387 for 4). At this stage, England still trailed by 79, and while Andrew Flintoff could have knocked that deficit off in a matter of minutes, he was determined to emulate his first innings and play sensibly. He wasn't able to resist temptation, however, when Sarwan lollipopped up a rank full-toss, and Lara pocketed a simple miscue at midwicket (408 for 5).
Lara quickly recalled his pacemen for one final victory push, but there was to be no fairytale ending for West Indies. Instead, as Vaughan held aloft the Wisden Trophy and England embarked on a lap of honour, they had to satisfy themselves with a reclaimed world record, and the belated recovery of their pride.
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