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March 19, 2004
Close West Indies 189 for 8 (Jacobs 29*, Collins 6*) v England
Until five minutes before lunch, when Steve Harmison marked out his run to begin his second spell of the day, West Indies appeared to have exorcised their Jamaica demons. With the entire Caribbean imploring his side to put up a fight, Brian Lara won the toss, and Chris Gayle and Devon Smith compiled a century stand for the first wicket, to banish the memory of that 47-all-out humiliation in the first Test. But then the façade crumbled. By the close of a stop-start day, Harmison had rampaged to his second five-wicket haul in extremely quick succession, and West Indies were in disarray at 189 for 8.
Harmison's opening spell of six overs had been fast without being furious, but a change of ends signalled a change of intent. He immediately rediscovered the line and explosive length that had served him so well at Sabina Park, and West Indies were powerless to resist. Gayle, who had made a typically belligerent 62, steered a simple catch through to Chris Read (100 for 1); Smith was trapped plumb lbw as he failed to get forward to a fuller-length delivery. And then, with two balls of the session remaining, Brian Lara flinched an unplayable throat-ball to a tumbling Ashley Giles in the gully.
Lara, on his home ground, was gone for a fourth-ball duck - the first time in his Test career he has made two noughts in successive innings - and the day had been turned on its head. Rain wiped out most of the afternoon session, but when play eventually resumed for six overs, there was little fight left in the innings. Shivnarine Chanderpaul swished at an off-stump lifter to give Simon Jones his first wicket, and Dwayne Smith was living recklessly as the gloom intensified and the players scurried off for an early tea.
Sure enough, Smith was the next to go as the procession continued into the evening. He had already demonstrated that he was not going to let the grass grow under his feet, by pulling a faintly startled Harmison for six over midwicket. But in the very next over, Smith tried the same trick and top-edged a simple catch to Nasser Hussain, who had just moved back to square leg. It was a sucker punch, but the knockout blow came five balls later, when Ramnaresh Sarwan's fledging rearguard came to an end. Harmison found just enough movement to find the edge of the bat, and Andrew Flintoff grabbed a sharp chance right in front of his nose at second slip (143 for 6).
Tino Best then flapped a regulation outswinger to Chris Read to give Matthew Hoggard his first wicket of the innings, before Adam Sanford was run out in farcical circumstances, attempting a third run off a mistimed pull to fine leg. The fielder was Vaughan, who later blotted his copybook by dropping Ridley Jacobs at mid-off, but by then the Trini Posse were already praying for bad light to bring the day to a merciful end.
It was a huge disappointment for West Indies' fans, and made all the more so by that semblance of a revival in the morning session, when Gayle and Smith had launched the innings with a trademark calypso counterattack. They endured a tricky opening spell from Hoggard and Harmison, who clanged Smith on the helmet and later cracked Gayle on the shoulder. But Gayle in particular was quick to cash in whenever England overpitched or offered him too much width, and the runs soon began to flow.
Smith, who offered a half-chance to Giles in the gully when he had made 10, grew in confidence as his innings progressed, just as he had done during his first-innings century in Jamaica. After the drinks interval, he carved Flintoff for four through backward point before gliding him for two fours in succession, while Gayle brought up his first Test fifty against England with a smart dab for two, moments after he had launched a huge six back over Giles's head.
At that point, it was all rather reminiscent of events in the Caribbean ten years ago. Back then, it had been England who pulled themselves together after being bundled out for 46, with Mike Atherton and Alec Stewart adding 171 for the first wicket to set up a remarkable victory. But after Harmison's intervention, the prospect of a similar West Indian revival was dead in the water.
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo.
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