Bad light holds up England's surge for victory
England 319 (Butcher 61, Hussain 58, Thorpe 90, Collins 4-71) and 71 for 2 need 28 more runs to beat West Indies 208 and 209 (Jacobs 70, Jones 5-57)
England galloped towards victory on the fourth evening at Port-of-Spain, knocking off 71 of the 99 runs they needed in just ten overs before the umpires stepped in and took the players off, even though the batsmen were keen to continue. So everyone has to come back tomorrow, with England needing just 28 runs to wrap up the match, a 2-0 lead in the four-match series, and the Wisden Trophy
For much of an absorbing day, in which 16 wickets tumbled, it seemed as if West Indies would set a much more daunting target. A tenacious fourth-wicket stand of 102 between Ridley Jacobs and Shivnarine Chanderpaul wiped out the first-innings deficit of 111, but England blew away the lightweight tail, grabbing the last five wickets for just 15 runs.
West Indies were all out for 209 - just one more than they managed in the first innings, when again almost half the runs came from one partnership. There was one stat to give the home fans hope, though. Back in 2000, Zimbabwe were also set 99 to win on this ground ... and collapsed in a heap for 63.
But that was back in the days of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh - and their replacements aren't in the same league. England's run-chase started in astonishing fashion: Marcus Trescothick clipped Tino Best's first ball for four, the second went for four byes, and the third cannoned into the stumps (8 for 1).
Mark Butcher started as if he thought it was a Twenty20 game - or maybe he was dropping a hint to the selectors who still haven't chosen him for a one-day international despite his 64 Test caps. He straight-drove his second ball, from Pedro Collins, for four, collected two more quick boundaries, and generally scurried around, wide-eyed, like a revved-up rabbit. After five overs, England already had 40 on the board.
Michael Vaughan joined in, unveiling that sweet swivel-pull of his to dropkick Best into the stands for six, then bulleting a startled Collins to wide midwicket for another board-battering boundary. But just as Vaughan seemed to be willing his side to victory with a day to spare, he received a marginal leg-before decision from Daryl Harper and was on his way for 23 (59 for 2).
Harper wasn't quite finished. Nasser Hussain flicked his first ball to square leg for another four, but he obviously hadn't eaten as many carrots as Butcher, who continued to see through the gloom without much difficulty. But Harper and Billy Bowden weren't happy, and used up so much time consulting about the light that eventually it probably was too dark to continue. The players trooped off, to return tomorrow for what should be a short, sharp session.
It had been a different story in the afternoon, when England had only one early scalp to celebrate - Ramnaresh Sarwan (13) shuffled across his stumps in characteristic fashion and was rapped on the pad by Simon Jones. There was a huge appeal, and Bowden eventually gave him out (56 for 3). It looked a marginal decision, but the TV replay confirmed that the ball would have flicked leg stump. Jones, who went on to complete his first five-wicket haul in Tests, may be hauled up before the match referee after giving Sarwan an unnecessarily sonic sendoff.
After that Jacobs - surprisingly pushed up the order to No. 4, as Brian Lara rested his injured finger - and Chanderpaul held firm. Chanderpaul survived one close lbw shout in an uninspiring spell from Ashley Giles, and Jacobs spiralled a leading edge into no-man's-land behind point off Matthew Hoggard, but otherwise there were few alarms as West Indies inched into the lead. Jacobs reached his first half-century against England shortly before tea. Afterwards he advanced to 70, with 11 chunky fours, before he finally fell to Jones, trying to drop his hands but only succeeding in ballooning a catch to point off the glove (158 for 4).
In came Lara at last, and he was in businesslike form to start with, sprinting a single to avoid a third successive duck, then flicking a tasty boundary off Hoggard. But then Vaughan played his joker: Stephen Harmison, who seemed to have misplaced the magic formula that had already brought him 15 wickets in this series, paced out his run, loped in, and thudded a straight one into Lara's pads. All Trinidad groaned as the finger went up, and Lara was on his way for 8 (171 for 5).
That was the beginning of the end. Dwayne Smith is, as yet, too loose for Test cricket, and although he flashed Andrew Flintoff for one sumptuous boundary it was no great surprise when, after spurting to 14, he swished again at what turned out to be an uncalled no-ball. The resultant screamer was calmly plucked, two-handed, by the diving substitute Paul Collingwood at point (194 for 6). Collingwood was on the field all day in place of Graham Thorpe, who was nursing the hand bruised yesterday by Best's beamer.
Another fine catch next over accounted for Chanderpaul, who skyed an attempted hook off Flintoff to the running, tumbling Hussain at backward square (195 for 7). The adhesive Chanderpaul had survived 147 balls for 42, but clearly felt he had to hit out with only the bowlers for support.
And the tail didn't hang around. Best was pinned in front by Hoggard for 2 (200 for 8), Sanford edged a big drive off Hoggard straight to Trescothick at slip (205 for 9), then Collins had his stumps shattered by the returning Jones for 7.
Earlier England had made two important breakthroughs before lunch. Chris Gayle - buoyed up by claiming two quick scalps as England added only 19 first thing in losing their last four wickets inside an hour - had clattered Hoggard through mid-off for four with an off-drive straight out of the MCC coaching book, but then Jones entered the fray. His first ball zoomed away for four wides, but his second squatted and knocked back Gayle's off stump (34 for 1).
Next over Jones struck again, as Devon Smith (17) looped a limp drive straight to Hoggard at mid-off (45 for 2). To some surprise, the new batsman was Jacobs - and he narrowly escaped an embarrassing run-out as he ambled a single only to see Collingwood's throw from point hit the stumps. The TV replays showed that Jacobs had just made it, though.
Jacobs certainly justified his promotion - but his eventual dismissal was the beginning of the end for West Indies. Another embarrassingly quick defeat, in little more than three days' actual playing time, looms large.
Steven Lynch is editor of Wisden Cricinfo.