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At Nottingham, May 25-28. England won by nine wickets. Toss: West Indies.
West Indies came to Nottingham, where they had never lost any of their 22 first-class games - and suffered a few more stinging blows to their regeneration project. The headless rabble that emerged from Caribbean cricket's crumbling empire had at last been succeeded by a united, workaday team fighting for the badge. Unfortunately, they were also fighting against their own limitations: you don't win too many Test matches from positions of 63 for four in the first innings, or 61 for six in the second. The contest between England's four leading bowlers and West Indies' top four batsmen looked like one of the most uneven in Test history.
Following his tenth defeat in 21 Tests as West Indies coach, Ottis Gibson said he had noticed as many mental as technical flaws in his top order. The task of facing Anderson, Broad and Bresnan with their juices flowing would have been taxing for batsmen of experience; for the tourists' callow line-up, it was thoroughly disorientating. There was, of course, no guarantee that Chris Gayle's approach would have served West Indies better. But onlookers could not help wondering what he might have done on the first morning, when they batted in the most amicable conditions imaginable, or on the third evening, when a few crisp blows might have sped them past their first-innings deficit. Instead, a crude collection of swipes and prods left England with only 108 to chase for their record seventh consecutive Test series victory at home.
Trent Bridge was a blissful sight, filled for the first two days by a near-capacity crowd enticed by glorious sunshine and tickets £10 cheaper than the previous year's Test against India. This beautiful ground will never be the same again: over the 2012-13 winter, the old scoreboard (the first in England to display precise bowling figures upon its completion in 1974) was knocked down to accommodate a second permanent electronic screen, in line with ICC recommendations.
Anderson had a hand in all four early wickets, just one hand in the case of Barath, whose flashing edge lodged in his outstretched left palm at third slip. Even as West Indies were being dismantled, it was clear what a good toss this should have been to win: the ball was doing so little for Anderson that he simply abandoned the outswinger and became a seam bowler for the day.
Bravo drove at Anderson's first ball from round the wicket, to his cost; Chanderpaul was more fortunate when the next, a well-aimed bouncer, brushed his armguard and whirled safely over the cordon. Four decisions made by Asad Rauf in this match were overturned by technology. The second could easily have killed the contest: Chanderpaul and was clipped on the back pad. England's review showed the ball crashing into off stump, and Swann's first Test wicket on his county ground, after 24.2 fruitless overs in three matches, was the world's No. 1 batsman.
At 136 for six, Gibson's critics were sharpening their cleavers. They reckoned without Samuels, now a 31-year-old father of two - and on the brink of fulfilment. His habit of shuffling across his stumps encouraged England to bowl straight, but he played the ball late with a feather's touch, unlike the youngsters before him. He shared some delicious verbal jousting with Anderson, who grew frustrated with both batsman and pitch for yielding nothing. "I haven't found too many bowlers who can bowl and talk," said Samuels later. "I can bat and talk all day." But the fact that it had taken this talent nearly 12 years and 70 innings to achieve three Test hundreds did not reflect well upon him or West Indies cricket.
Sammy diced his way to a century, only his second at first-class level, without quashing the suspicion that he was a one-day cricketer in charge of a Test side; one heave across the line against Trott would have shamed Welbeck Colliery's No. 8. But with a keen eye and strapping forearms, he sent length balls thudding into the boundary boards and kept his team in the match. When Sammy eventually fell to the leg-side trap on the second morning, he and Samuels had put on 204, a seventh-wicket record in Tests on this ground, and for West Indies against England anywhere.
Many blithely assumed that, if West Indies could score 370, England might make 730. It was not that simple. Twice in Roach's opening spell, Cook nicked deliveries slanted across him, only to be saved by no-balls. His continuing uncertainty outside off stump soon drew him to edge Rampaul, who was conjuring more conventional swing than anyone after missing out at Lord's with a stiff neck. But Shillingford, added to the side to bowl long, tidy spells of off-spin, was thwarted by batsmen eager to sweep away nasty memories of Saeed Ajmal in the desert, and started pushing the ball through too quickly. climbing into cover-drives as in the glory years. He had passed three figures by the close, only the second instance of opposing Test captains reaching centuries on the same day, after Jackie McGlew, of South Africa, and Peter May at Old Trafford in 1955. It was
Strauss's sixth against West Indies and 21st overall, yet he still had an unwanted reputation to shift: morning-after syndrome. Six times Strauss had slept on a hundred, and never added more than six runs the next day. This time he managed another 39, but it took him nearly three hours, with two sweepers posted on the off side to shackle him. It didn't help that he had lost Trott, the rampaging Pietersen and Bell - all when set, all lbw playing across their front pad.
Reinvigorated by the second new ball, Roach unleashed an exhilarating barrage at Bairstow, clearly exposing a weakness against fast, short-pitched bowling of which he had seen little in county cricket. West Indies looked more focused in the field than for many a tour to England, and scooped up the last eight wickets for 161.
But honest professionalism and smart bowling plans could not alter the cold reality: to beat good sides you must win the big sessions. West Indies' recent second-innings performances did not inspire confidence and, when the damage came on the third evening, it felt irreparable - even with Samuels in such sumptuous form. As Kirk Edwards was back at the hotel with flu, Chanderpaul was forced up to No. 4 and out of his comfort zone. He should have known better than to hook Broad's lifter; had the ball been ten overs softer, though, his top edge would probably have landed tamely in no-man's land rather than down fine leg's throat.
At Lord's, Bresnan's inclusion had caused some debate. That looked bewildering now. It was he who had stretched out England's lead and, when it mattered most, he was their canniest bowler, hiding the seam from view and finding reverse swing, apparently from nowhere. Edwards, a quick mover neither to or at the crease, was obliged to trudge out to face Bresnan at 61 for five with eight balls of the third day to see out. No one, least of all Edwards himself, thought he would get that far; two excruciating writhes later, he was crawling back to his bed, poorly, crestfallen and with a first-class tour average of 2.85. For West Indies, so long the sick man of world cricket, the path to full recovery looked steep.
Man of the Match: T. T. Bresnan. Attendance: 51,921.
Close of play: first day, West Indies 304-6 (Samuels 107, Sammy 88); second day, England 259-2 (Strauss 102, Pietersen 72); third day, West Indies 61-6 (Samuels 13, Sammy 0).