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The Wisden Verdict by Freddie Auld in Port-of-Spain
March 22, 2004
While it was the battle-hardened old batsmen who showed the virtue of patience yesterday, today it was the turn of the young fast-bowling brigade to follow in their footsteps. Strength of mind and will has been the key to England's superiority in this Test, and on this crucial fourth day, West Indies again came out second-best.
Before play, as if he knew what was to come, a West Indian journalist said that Nasser Hussain summed up the difference between the two teams last night. That difference was discipline. Much has been made of West Indies' lax and laidback outlook, mainly off the pitch, but there are plenty of problems on it as well. Both D Smiths helped England's cause with loose shots - even some of the English press corps groaned when Devon looped a tame cover-drive to mid-off - and Shivnarine Chanderpaul's exit was pretty ungraceful too. Fittingly, it was Hussain himself who took that catch, which in effect, sealed the match.
Simon Jones's first Test five-for was richly deserved, even though it may come at some price, like half his match fee, after his tete-a-tete with Ramnaresh Sarwan. The way Jones struts around the field with his England sunhat turned up at the sides makes him look a bit like a cowboy, and he certainly had both barrels loaded today. It's been a long road to recovery for Jones, from Cardiff to Calcutta to the Caribbean, and he's making the most of his welcome-back tour.
As a result, he's bursting with emotion, as shown by his heartfelt reaction to his dismissal of Brian Lara in the first innings at Sabina Park. It's understandable that every wicket is even more precious after that horror fall at Brisbane, but his sendoffs of Smith and Sarwan were nonetheless over the top.
While Jones revelled as the show pony, Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff were happy to do the donkey work - one of the reasons why this England attack complement each other so well. Steve Harmison forgot to clip on his Superman cape this time, but Hoggard and Flintoff excelled in the Clark Kent roles, even when Ridley Jacobs was threatening to tear up the script. However, Harmison's one superhero moment of the day was vital - the prized scalp of a bemused Brian Lara.
Lara's recent form against England doesn't make pretty reading. He has averaged only 20 in the last seven Tests against them, and has only 31 runs in four innings in this series so far. After impressive scores against South Africa, he was supposed to be the giant of this series, but England have cut him down to size. That was illustrated by his decision to send in Jacobs ahead of him ten minutes before lunch - perhaps the first instance of a lunchwatchman in Test cricket. The move took everyone by surprise. The general feeling was that Lara, injured or not injured, didn't fancy it - that the leader was running scared while he sent the others over the top.
Jacobs has been one of the few consistent performers for West Indies over recent years, and he again proved his worth today. He edged his side back into it and changed the atmosphere. He temporarily helped the home supporters find their long-lost tongues again, and put England on the back foot for the first time since the openmers put on 100 on the first morning. Jacobs is built like a heavyweight boxer, and his approach is the same: stand and deliver with no thrills and spills. Today was no different. Even Geoff Boycott gave him a clap when he made it to 50.
But that will be the only applause coming West Indies' way. England are just 28 runs away from retaining the Wisden Trophy, and will then be one small step away from breaking the 36-year hoodoo of no series victories in the West Indies. It's time Lara and his boys took some notice of England's disciplined approach ... before it's too late.
Freddie Auld, Wisden Cricinfo's assistant editor, is following England's fortunes in Jamaica and Trinidad.
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