West Indies fight back after Flintoff's blitz
Close West Indies 184 for 2 (Sarwan 87*, Lara 74*) trail England 566 for 9 dec (Flintoff 167, Trescothick 105, Jones 74, Thorpe 61, Bravo 4-76) by 382 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
England took the upper hand on the second day at Edgbaston, with Andrew Flintoff's 167 leading a helter-skelter charge to 566, after which Matthew Hoggard ripped out two quick wickets. But then Brian Lara and Ramnaresh Sarwan fought back, batting throughout the final session. West Indies ended a day on which 437 runs were scored still 382 behind, with a lot to do to save the match.
Flintoff dominated England's innings, slamming seven sixes and 17 fours in what was his fourth Test century and his highest first-class score, beating 160 for Lancashire in the 1999 Roses match at Old Trafford. The highlight was his attacking sixth-wicket partnership with Geraint Jones, which set up England's huge total. Before this match they averaged 111 when batting together, and it's even higher now after this stand of 170.
Flintoff was the first to get going, when a muscular block whistled past point for four, and he was soon into his big-hitting stride: a four off the labouring Pedro Collins took him to his half-century, and he celebrated with another boundary next ball. Flintoff, reassuringly solid in defence, has passed 50 in each of his last six Tests, something not achieved for England since Alec Stewart managed it in 1996-97.
Flintoff then turned his attention to Jermaine Lawson. First he effortlessly pulled him over square leg for six, and then Freddie started chancing his arm, thick-edging past the non-existent second slip for four, and top-edging an attempted pull that nearly cleared the third-man boundary. Lawson then put down a sharp return chance, and watched in frustration as his next over went for 17, with Flintoff rasping a square-drive past Lara's left hand in the covers, then smashing one over long-on for another six - straight to his father Colin in the crowd, who dropped it into Michael Vaughan's mother's lap.
Jones, meanwhile, was hardly overshadowed, slashing one four down to third man and unfurling a textbook square cut for another. His half-century, which included nine fours, came up off only 62 balls - 21 quicker, indeed, than Flintoff's. It elevated Jones's Test average into Gilchrist territory - nudging 50. He had reached an attractive 74 when the steady Corey Collymore finally broke the stand, moving one away which Jones feathered through to Ridley Jacobs (432 for 6).
Ashley Giles actually outscored Flintoff in a stand of 46, with a lively 24 before he chipped a full-toss from Dwayne Bravo - belatedly introduced into the attack after some tight spells yesterday - straight to midwicket (478 for 7). Flintoff had hurtled to 167 when he was finally bamboozled by a loopy slower one from Bravo and trapped leg-before (522 for 8).
The birthday boy James Anderson - 22 today - dragged one on from Banks (525 for 9), but then an entertaining last-wicket stand of 41 between Hoggard and Stephen Harmison lifted the total to 566 before Vaughan called a halt. Harmison, perhaps smarting at being stuck in after Anderson, spanked two fours through the covers and a huge six over wide long-on in one over from Lawson, finishing with his highest Test score of 31 not out. Lawson, meanwhile, was left nursing figures of 1 for 111.
It all meant that England had the psychological edge when West Indies came out for a tricky half-an-hour before tea, and that advantage spiralled in the first over, when Devon Smith was squared up by Hoggard and squirted one out over gully, where Giles timed his leap well for a one-handed grab (5 for 1).
Hoggard struck again in his next over, knocking back Chris Gayle's leg stump as he shuffled across (12 for 2). In came Lara, with a mountain to climb on his old home ground, on which he hasn't scored a Test century (not yet, anyway).
West Indies consolidated after tea, batting throughout the entire session without further alarms, and scoring quickly as well - the hundred ticked up at five an over. Lara led the way, using that flowing follow-through to great effect. He flashed Harmison, who regularly exceeded 90mph, through the covers for four, and then top-edged him for six over the head of the back-pedalling Robert Key at deep square.
Lara did look bemused at one point, though, when the crowd gave him a prolonged ovation after the scoreboard flashed up that he had reached 10,000 Test runs. It wasn't surprising that Lara was nonplussed, as actually he only had 9900 at the time.
Meanwhile Sarwan played himself back into form by hitting out. In all he collected 16 fours, most of them square on the off side or through the covers, and generally playing straighter than at Lord's, where he twice fell lbw to Hoggard. Captain and vice-captain had put on 172 entertaining runs by the close.
Lara's Lord's bogey-man, Giles, wheeled down some testing overs, extracting a degree of spin that suggests batting could become more difficult as this match goes on. The occasional ball is keeping low, too, and since West Indies are only halfway to the 367 they need to avoid the follow-on, England remain very firmly in the box seat.
Steven Lynch is editor of Wisden Cricinfo.