England outclass dismal West Indies
Michael Vaughan's cry for England to show a ruthlessness and "to really enjoy getting teams in the dirt" at the end of the third Test has been heeded, his team wrapping up a comprehensive seven-wicket win over West Indies on the final day of the fourth Test at Chester-le-Street. With Steve Harmison finally showing impressive rhythm and Monty Panesar continuing to bamboozle, England are handily placed ahead of India's visit next month.
The second session was almost a mirror image of yesterday when England's batsmen capitalised on a woeful display from West Indies' seamers. Today, it was England's bowlers who seized the initiative after the interval, prompted by the delayed introduction of Panesar to the attack. The stroke play however - if that isn't too generous a description - of some of West Indies' batsmen was nothing short of calamitous. Between lunch and tea, they lost 6 for 88 while, all along, Shivnarine Chanderpaul acted as the dam between England and victory.
Dwayne Bravo appeared to be the only man from whom Chanderpaul would receive sensible, solid support, and went on the attack - to England's seamers in particular. Initially solid, he was unsettled and frustrated by Harmison's shock-and-awe tactics before lunch and, soon after the interval, went out all guns blazing. An audacious and perfectly placed hook over square leg energised him, before he slapped Harmison over extra cover for another four. But at a time when West Indies simply needed him to block, block, block, he couldn't rein in his attacking instincts and skied Panesar to mid-off.
The wicket owed as much to Harmison's venom in the previous over as Panesar's nerve for tossing it up. England's tortured fast bowler finally appears to have worked himself into form, though such a statement is often prematurely optimistic for Harmison. But nevertheless, during a long and unbroken 12-over spell, he was disciplined, fast, straight and hostile. On a couple of occasions his wicketkeeper, Matt Prior, could have benefited from a ladder such was the bounce he was extracting - on a spongy fifth-day pitch, too.
The floodgates now open, Marlon Samuels came and went in a hurry, edging Panesar to Paul Collingwood at first slip, and Denesh Ramdin was bowled by an absolute corker. As though magnetised to his leg-stump, the ball veered into Ramdin's pads before spitting past a seemingly watertight forward defensive. Panesar was unstoppable, bowling with mesmerising control, the ball looping and dipping at the last moment. Perhaps Vaughan isn't yet comfortable regarding Panesar as his most potent fifth-day-weapon, hence his slight delay in introducing him today, but that ought to change for the India series. He is fast becoming deadly in all conditions.
While the dominoes tumbled at one end, Chanderpaul remained fiercely resolute at the other and began to open his shoulders, wary of the brittleness of West Indies' tail. And how brittle. Daren Powell produced a wretched shot against Harmison - even worse than his pitiful attempt in the first innings - trying to spoon him over cover. And Fidel Edwards was bowled through the gate, his off-stump sent cart wheeling by the same bowler who, by now, was in excellent rhythm. After cracking Panesar for a couple of fours, Chanderpaul's vigil ended when he was bowled by one which slid under his sweep shot. It was the first time he had been dismissed in over 18 hours, and also handed Panesar his sixth five-wicket haul.
England lost Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss in their chase of 110, but Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen were in no mood to be contained. Vaughan, in particular, drove magnificently, hammering Edwards through extra cover before driving him straight back down the ground as England raced home in the 42nd over.
The regeneration has begun, and it has been a solid start for Peter Moores as the new coach. Sterner tests lie ahead, starting with India next month.
Will Luke is a staff writer on Cricinfo