Spineless West Indies succumb meekly
To call it a spineless display from West Indies would be entirely accurate. Without Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, not to mention the retired Brian Lara, their batsmen lacked anyone with any experience of marshalling a rearguard, and in temperatures that hovered all day around the seven-degree mark, the desire to return to the warmth of the dressing-room seemed to be the over-riding emotion. "I think it was ugly in the end," said their coach, David Moore. "It looked like a pretty meek surrender."
It is said that all things in life are cyclical - what comes around goes around. And yet, such was the dearth of talent on display in all disciplines of West Indies' cricket, it is hard to believe that a weaker group of players has ever been sent to represent their region - or that there is a great groundswell of talent bubbling up to replace the current incumbents. "There will certainly be questions asked on both the batting and bowling side," said Moore, a man with the thankless task of sifting through the wreckage of this performance. "I've got faith in them - it's just that we need to be more consistent."
Only two weeks ago, West Indies batted England all the way to a stalemate at Lord's - a fact that Moore was keen to remind everyone of this evening. But this time around, shooting fish in a barrel would have been a more taxing proposition for England's bowlers, even though it wasn't until Steve Harmison came rampaging down the hill this evening, massaging his figures with three late wickets, that they stopped using the blunderbuss and turned to the sniper's rifle. For most of this final day, as in the rest of the match, England relied exclusively on the wicket-to-wicket wiles of Sidebottom. It was reminiscent of the absent Matthew Hoggard's Man-of-the-Match display against Bangladesh at Chester-le-Street in 2005 - a hint of swing, and his opponents were too naïve to resist.
If you've got someone bowling 90mph in the right area, it's fantastic, but pace bowled on either side of the wicket is something quite nice to face
Michael Vaughan praises Sidebottom, at the expense of his team-mates
"You can't really beat the old workhorse who puts it there or thereabouts," said Vaughan, whose victory was the 20th of his 34-Test captaincy career, which draws him level with the great Peter May. "Ryan was exceptional from his first ball. He offered great angles with his left-arm variety, and it was great for him to come in and do what he did. If you've got someone bowling 90mph in the right area, it's fantastic, but pace bowled on either side of the wicket is something that's quite nice to face."
Vaughan was no doubt speaking from his own considerable experience against the likes of Australia and South Africa, but at the other end from Sidebottom were two seamers who, again, did their best to show the wisdom of his words. That West Indies were unable to survive, in spite of the ongoing waywardness of both Harmison and Liam Plunkett, was a further indictment of their lack of Test quality.
"We put in such a gutsy performance in the first Test, then in the second it's as if it's a different team on the field," said Moore. "We've got to learn from those mistakes. [The batsmen] have got to get to a point where they realise we have to play for five days - and they need to bat the whole way through. We saw England do it, and twice we couldn't. It is important to be able to occupy the crease."
Bravo, who played his second twinkle-toed cameo of the series, and Runako Morton found some desire to resist during their 63-run stand for the sixth wicket. But then Morton fell, in Moores' words, to "a three-card trick" as he top-edged a Harmison bouncer, and the denouement was signed and sealed. "It was a pretty quick exit after that," added Moores. "It was a bit disappointing."
After a much-needed break the teams reconvene on June 7 at Old Trafford, the scene of Harmison's 11-wicket rampage against Pakistan last summer, and Vaughan was adamant that he had seen signs of the Harmison renaissance that has so stubbornly refused to materialise in the past two Tests.
"Steve has openly admitted he hasn't had the best six months, but hopefully that spell down the hill will be just the tonic that gives him confidence," said Vaughan. "When the wicket flattened out a little bit this afternoon, I thought he was back to what we know he can be - bowling 90mph, getting bounce off a good length, and putting batsmen under a lot of pressure."
Plunkett, if anything, provided even more of a curate's egg performance - as typified by his dismissal of Chris Gayle in the day's first mini-session. Three awful deliveries to send Matt Prior sprawling way down the leg-side, followed by a perfect off-stump length that was nibbled through to the keeper. "Of course Liam would like to have bowled a little bit more consistently," said Vaughan, "but he always bowls wicket-taking deliveries and that's a huge skill to have in your armoury."
There have been some mighty thumpings in the history of Test cricket, but few have felt as underwhelming as this. England's trouncing of Bangladesh in 2005, for instance, was mitigated by the furious focus that the team had developed ahead of that summer's Ashes - Habibul Bashar, the beaten captain, said he had never faced a more ruthless opposition.
Vaughan used that same word "ruthless" again this evening, but you could sense he didn't quite mean it. This thrashing was handed out to one of the great iconic teams of the world game, by a side that gorged itself on toothless bowling before winkling out their opponents with bowling that was never better than steady, and quite often considerably less than that. It can only be hoped that Sarwan and Chanderpaul can be resurrected in time for Old Trafford, because their team-mates are in desperate need of some guidance.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo