England sweep to victory
England XI 274 (Hussain 86) beat University of West Indies Vice-Chancellor's XI 119 (Harmison 4-17) and 70 (Hoggard 3-10, Giles 3-23, Jones 3-3) by an innings and 85 runs
England needed just two days to race to a comfortable and thoroughly convincing victory in their warm-up match in Kingston. After a fit-again Graham Thorpe had helped England to a respectable 274, Ashley Giles, Matthew Hoggard and Simon Jones tore into the batting as the University of West Indies Vice-Chancellor's XI was blown away for a meagre 70 in their second innings.
It was another productive day all round for England. Thorpe reassured the management that he had fully recovered from yesterday's back spasm with a stylish 55, and the bowlers made light work of some tame batting.
But, considering the inexperience of the opposition batsmen, Thorpe's performance will be the most pleasing aspect for England. After Nasser Hussain was squared up by a Jermaine Lawson pearler for 86, and Paul Collingwood, the other overnight batsman, was caught at midwicket off Jason Bennett, Thorpe took centre-stage. He made a cagey start, but soon got back into his groove, signalled with a confident pull for four off Ryan Nurse, followed by some of his trademark square-cuts. And that was just as well for England, as wickets tumbled at regular intervals at the other end.
Andrew Flintoff was on the wrong end of a dodgy decision. After the ball hit Flintoff on his back pad, Bennett, the bowler, mouthed a muted appeal. The umpire then surprisingly whipped up his finger, even though the ball was clearly slanting down leg side. Flintoff wasn't a happy bunny, and he let the umpire know, standing his ground and giving him the eye. The sound of "Another One Bites the Dust" from the ground speakers didn't help matters either.
Chris Read flashed Dwayne Bravo to Dave Bernard at gully for a duck, then Giles was plumb lbw to Lawson for 2. But Thorpe proved what a vital cog he will be for England in the Tests. He conjured up the shot of the day, an elegant cover-drive off Lawson, and continued to build his side's advantage with some dashing strokes all round the wicket. He finally fell midway through the afternoon, when he slapped a short one from Tonito Willett straight to Jason Haynes at midwicket.
The new batsman Jones was positive from the outset. He smacked Ryan Cunningham back over the main stand and into the refreshment tents, and cut him for four next ball. But Jones was later bowled going for another big shot, and Steve Harmison lasted only a couple of balls as England's innings petered out for 274, a lead of 155.
The Vice-Chancellor's XI made a sleepy start to their second innings, but England's bowlers woke up after tea. Kennedy Otieno scooped Hoggard to Collingwood at mid-off, then Giles ripped one like a legbreak which gated the left-handed Haynes. Bravo was then torpedoed by a Hoggard grubber, and Bernard edged Giles to Flintoff at first slip.
And they kept on coming ... and going. Hoggard cleaned up Darren Sammy, Willett was lbw to Giles, and Jones provided the final flourish with three wickets as the innings lurched to 70 all out. Steve Tikolo, the Kenyan captain, was unable to bat as he was suffering from a dose of flu.
More good news for England was that Mark Butcher came through a net session in the morning with little trouble. Duncan Fletcher, England's coach, rated his chances of making the first Test as 40-60. Fletcher reckons the top seven batting positions for the Test are sorted, assuming that Butcher makes it - but he admitted that he still needs to finalise the bowling combination, with Jones now back in the frame. "I'm pleased to have Jones back with us," he said. "He was under a lot of pressure in the first innings, but he bowled well with good lines."
Freddie Auld is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo in London. He will be covering the first two Tests of England's series in the Caribbean.