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May 26, 2012
England 259 for 2 (Strauss 102*, Pietersen 72*) trail West Indies 370 (Samuels 117, Sammy 106, Bresnan 4-104) by 111 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball commentary
If Andrew Strauss' hundred in the first Test against West Indies on his beloved home ground at Lord's provided personal regeneration, another hundred in the second Test at Trent Bridge was an exercise in pampering. The weather was idyllic, the pitch was good natured and the West Indies attack was full of pleasantries. It was part Test cricket, part spa treatment.
Four overs remained on the second day when Strauss clipped an overpitched delivery from West Indies' offspinner, Shane Shillingford, to the midwicket boundary. In place of his yelp of achievement at Lord's was the expression of a man who had been cosseted in mind and body. "The wicket looked very placid," said Strauss, who looked very placid himself.
He has 21 Test hundreds now (six against West Indies), one behind the joint record held by Wally Hammond, Geoffrey Boycott and Colin Cowdrey. . Alongside him Kevin Pietersen, unbeaten on 72 at the close, was as frisky as a hare in mating season.
Strauss had a poor record on this ground - only two half-centuries in 13 attempts - and he got off the mark with a slash over the slips off Kemar Roach. But long before the end he played with a panache of old, driving and cutting effortlessly, his lacerating cut shot making Sammy's tactic of a deep gully an irrelevance.
As his innings progressed he worked the leg side in a way that is reserved for his best days. Late among his 18 boundaries were two sweeps in an over against Shillingford, haunted no more by the shot that caused horrors for every England batsman in the UAE last winter.
Ravi Rampaul, despite carrying the sort of excess baggage for which Ryanair would charge a hefty surcharge, was the most challenging member of West Indies' attack, claiming both England wickets and periodically finding more movement than any bowler in the match. Darren Sammy, another captain to make a Test hundred on the day, in his case his first, and Shillingford were unable to impose any authority.
As for Roach, the no-balls that twice cost him the wicket of Alastair Cook will prey on his mind for a long time. He imagined that he had dismissed Cook, England's most dogged performer, either side of tea only to be penalised for overstepping. Cook had made only a single when he was well caught by the wicketkeeper, Denesh Ramdin. Then he repeated the indiscretion: another bat hung out to dry by Cook, a more regulation catch for Ramdin. Roach stared into his twinkling gold chain and may have briefly caught sight of a guilty face staring back at him.
Roach, the most threatening member of West Indies' attack, now has 26 no-balls in the series. He has been this way before. He had India's captain, MS Dhoni, caught behind off no-balls in successive overs in a Test against India at Eden Gardens last year, but he does not seem to have learned from the experience.
It would be unfair to suggest that Roach's indiscipline is symptomatic of a wider West Indies malaise. Their cricket has been disciplined, if limited, throughout the series and despite perfect batting conditions they restricted the early part of England's innings to two runs an over before Cook, on 24, gave Ramdin his third catch - a better ball this, from Rampaul. Jonathan Trott's breezy 35 ended to an lbw decision, upheld on review, as Rampaul nipped one back shortly after tea.
The thinnest of edges had protected Pietersen from an lbw decision against Rampaul when he was on nought, but this was not the sort of day for Pietersen to recognise his own vulnerability. He had only a single when he struck Shillingford for an imperious straight six - an over that cost 19 as Strauss cut two boundaries - and England's strokeplay began to flow.
Sammy could find solace in a maiden Test hundred as West Indies were dismissed for 370 with England rounding up the last four wickets within 90 minutes. Some Test centuries impress you, some Test centuries move you, some just add another layer to Test cricket's statistics. As long as you were not an England bowler Sammy's maiden Test hundred was more liable to make you smile.
It was a rip roaring affair, a collection of powerful strokes that were audacious in their adventure and charming in their unorthodoxy. It was a ride that you would not expect to see very often and that made it even more worthwhile.
England's bowlers did not share the delight. There were too many thick edges and technical blemishes for that and when Sammy's century came up in his 26th Test it was entirely appropriate that it did so with a moment of fortune.
In fact, make that two moments of fortune, in successive balls, too. Six overs into the morning, Sammy bludgeoned a length ball from Stuart Broad wide of gully off a thick edge. The shot that took him to 100 was a travesty, an intended whip through midwicket that sailed just wide of the diving Ian Bell at gully. Broad kept his counsel; not so long ago he would have eaten the stumps in fury.
Sammy beamed, and there was contentment in the applause, too, because his innings, 106 from 156 balls, had provided rich entertainment. His worth as West Indies Test captain has been perpetually questioned - he entered this Test with an average below 20 and only two half-centuries, and his bowling does not entirely compensate - and he deserved his day in the sun. He might not enjoy his day in the sun on Sunday: England will have designs on 650.
Tim Bresnan, whose retention of England's third seamer role ahead of Steven Finn has come into focus ahead of the South Africa series later this summer, added lustre to his figures by taking three of the last four West Indies wickets, finishing with 4 for 104.
He removed Sammy on the pull shot at deep midwicket for 107, a trap which by then Sammy was on too much of a high to take much notice of, so ending a stand of 204 in 52 overs, a seventh-wicket record for Tests at Trent Bridge. Bresnan also dismissed Marlon Samuels, West Indies' other century maker, in his next over for 117 as James Anderson held a sliced drive in the gully.
Bresnan's intervention was necessary. Anderson and Broad both had speeds well done on normal after their exertions of the first day, registering around 80mph on a bountiful pitch for batting. Neither looked as if they had leapt out of bed energetically and before them was the sort of featherbed designed to give any fast bowler a sleepless night.
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