Best's great day brings West Indies cheer
Close England 221 for 5 (Pietersen 78, Bell 76*) trail West Indies 426 (Ramdin 107*, Best 95, Samuels 76, Onions 4-88) by 205 runs
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Tino Best, whose career as a Test batsman was previously encapsulated by Andrew Flintoff's "mind the windows" jibe at Lord's eight years ago, struck back with a world record innings by a Test No. 11 on his return to the West Indies Test side, a fantastical affair that shattered England's faint chances of winning the Edgbaston Test in the process.
In the innings of his life, all that was lacking was the first century by a No. 11 batsman in Tests. He fell attempting a wind-up over long-on that he envisaged would clear the ropes and give him that historic hundred, only to be deceived by a slower ball by Graham Onions and edge to England's captain, Andrew Strauss, running backwards from slip. By then everybody outside the England dressing room must have been willing him to make it.
Best scored 95 from 112 balls in a last-wicket stand of 143 - the highest in West Indies Test history and the third best of all time. He is now the proud holder of the highest score by a No. 11 in Test cricket, outdoing Zaheer Khan's 75 for India against Bangladesh in Dhaka eight years ago.
England were lethargic in mind and deed, all talk of a whitewash abruptly silenced as West Indies added another 146 to their overnight 280 for 8. That lack of vigour permeated their batting in turn as West Indies followed up with three wickets by tea. Alastair Cook fell across the crease to be lbw to Ravi Rampaul (a wasted review by England), Jonathan Trott chopped on as he tried to guide to third man and Strauss, who had been struck on the hand earlier by a waist-high full toss by Best, edged him to first slip at the start of his second spell.
It was left to Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell to bring some perspective in a fourth-wicket stand of 137 in 30 overs, an untroubled partnership interrupted by two contrary stoppages for bad light and ended by Marlon Samuels, who enticed Pietersen into guiding to slip when he had made 78 from 81 balls.
Sunil Narine, an unconventional spinner with a jaunty, rhythmical action and a Tintin quiff, called up for a Test debut after a successful IPL campaign, had Bell, on 20, dropped at short leg on the verge of tea but otherwise was picked off at will. Bell reached 76 not out by the close, but Best, fittingly, had the last word by bowling Jonny Bairstow with a fast, full delivery to add to his troubled introduction to Test cricket.
But the pitch still favours the batsmen and even though England face additional pressure from a follow-on figure reduced to 150 runs because of the time lost to rain, leaving them 56 runs short, a draw seems inevitable.
Best's mayhem persisted long enough for the wicketkeeper, Denesh Ramdin, who had battled through the second new ball to be 60 not out overnight, to make a second Test hundred that he could have barely deemed possible after the ninth wicket fell to the third ball of the morning. Ramdin moved from 98 to 99 in unfortunate fashion when he struck a straight drive off Steve Finn against the bowler's-end stumps but in the next over he flicked Tim Bresnan to long leg to add to the hundred he also made against England in Barbados in 2009.
When he reached three figures he yanked a message out of his pocket and shook it meaningfully towards the commentary boxes. "YEH VIV TALK NAH," it said. The scrawled note appeared to be aimed at criticism made by the great West Indian Viv Richards who had remarked after the second Test at Trent Bridge that Ramdin's career had deteriorated markedly. Ramdin's ability to respond when riled rather proved Richards' point about under achievement.
Best, who was called up as a replacement in the Test squad after injury to Shannon Gabriel, embarked upon a series of fulsome lofted offside drives as Onions, in particular, and Steven Finn repeatedly overpitched. When he did edge the ball, it escaped England's conservative field of two slips and a gully and they suffered for their approach. A defensive mindset has served England well but in their field placings and bowling approach they were tactically wanting.
England's fielding has also been below its best at Edgbaston. They dropped three slip catches on the opening day and Ramdin, who was overshadowed by Best for the first hour, was missed on 69 by Kevin Pietersen at gully, a fast catch and the third time in the match that Finn had seen a chance dropped in the cordon off his bowling.
Graeme Swann was introduced with Best on 37 and twice in his first over he rocked back to drive him through the covers with panache. A hearty slog against Tim Bresnan, a former Yorkshire team mate who gazed at the disappearing ball lugubriously, took him to 49 before he brought delight to the West Indies players on the dressing room balcony by scampering a single into the offside, a moment he celebrated in exuberant style.
He joined his fellow Barbadian Wes Hall as only the second West Indies No. 11 to pass fifty in Test cricket and was only the third No. 11 to make 50 against England in a Test, following Fred Spofforth of Australia and Bert Vogler, both more than a century ago.
It had all seemed straightforward for England when they struck with the third ball of the morning, Finn seaming one away at fullish length against Ravi Rampaul for Matt Prior to take the catch. In the absence of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, both rested, England's bank of pace bowling resources ahead of the South Africa series later in the summer had been duly confirmed, only for Best to sweep aside any complacency.
But to conclude that England's fast-bowling rotation caused Best's innings smacks of over-interpretation. It is a fallacy - although sadly for students of such things, considering Best's involvement, it is not the Broken Windows Fallacy.
Having miraculously stuck around long enough for Ramdin to reach 100, Best cast aside what few his inhibitions he had. His first six took him into the 80s, a length ball from Bresnan that he slapped against the sightscreen. "Play for me now," he shouted at Ramdin, his visions growing of his own extraordinary Test century. On 82 not out, he called for a chest guard, in anticipation of a barrage of short balls from Finn from around the wicket.
With nine wickets down, the lunch interval was extended for half an hour, a boon for Best, who was 12 runs short. Onions returned, angular and stern faced; Best's round face awash with smiles. A leading edge almost lobbed up to Trott on 93, and he survived an lbw appeal against Trott the next ball. Ramdin refused an impossible single on 95 and he dashed back to his crease. But Onions' slower ball was temptation too much. He was one scythe from glory. Instead, he walked off with his face hidden in his helmet, an emotional man perhaps disguising a tear or two.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo