West Indies v England, 1st Test, Jamaica, 4th day February 7, 2009

A victory that feels like a rebirth

As Jerome Taylor was making himself a Caribbean hero on an extraordinary fourth afternoon at Sabina Park, the DJ who has been in occupation throughout the match played The Change is Going to Come

Jerome Taylor gets the West Indians jumping again © Getty Images
As Jerome Taylor was making himself a Caribbean hero on an extraordinary fourth afternoon at Sabina Park, the DJ who has been in occupation throughout the match played A Change is Gonna Come, which had also been Barack Obama's campaign song. The US mainland is only a short flight away from Jamaica, and while Obama unveils his financial stimulus package, cricket in West Indies was being given its own injection of life.

The song also includes the line It's been a long time coming which is a sentiment that will be felt by many West Indies fans. Revenge is meant to be sweet, but the taste of this success will linger longer than anything else the team has achieved since the side fragmented so rapidly from the mid-1990s onwards. There has been the occasional victory to savour since then - notably the Champions Trophy win in 2004 and an away Test win in South Africa in 2007 - but the way they transformed this Test puts everything else into the shade.

"It's definitely a turning point, we don't know how big yet, we will wait until the series finishes and we will see just how big a turning point it was," said a delighted Chris Gayle. "It was tremendous and I want to congratulate everyone. Hopefully we can capitalise on this and make the most of it."

That, of course, is the key. West Indies have had flashes of inspiration before and failed to build on it. However, given the nature of this win it is a magnificent achievement on its own. It was revenge for their own dismal demise in 2004 when they were shot out for 47, also on a dramatic fourth day as Steve Harmison took 7 for 12, and also for the host of other humbling collapses England have inflicted since the turn of the century. Lord's, Headingley, Barbados - suddenly they were all forgotten.

This year for Harmison read Taylor, as he wrecked England with a spell of pace bowling to match anything a West Indies quick has produced in recent memory. Never mind Jamaica 2004, this brought back memories of Trinidad in 1994 when Curtly Ambrose took 6 for 24, and until Andrew Flintoff hit out England were on course to be humbled for less than that famous 46.

"I said before that hopefully it would be the other way round [to 2004], which it actually turned out to be," Gayle said. "I am going on the mound [stand]. The last time when we lost here, I went on the mound and got in a lot of trouble for that. So this time I can go. Its really good, I'm happy."

However, this performance goes beyond pure statistics. With each wicket taken by Taylor, and the other bowling hero Sulieman Benn, the entire West Indies team sprinted towards the packed party stand where Gayle would later head. Saturday in Kingston brought out the locals, and the numbers swelled as news spread of the crash of wickets. This must have been what it was like when Holding and company were causing chaos all those years ago.

"I am going on the mound [stand]. The last time when we lost here, I went on the mound and got in a lot of trouble for that. So this time I can go. Its really good, I'm happy." Chris Gayle prepares to party hard after an epic win

"It was the best fast bowling I have seen for a long while and he set the game up for us and we won it," Gayle said, while Taylor sat quietly beside his captain, no doubt trying to soak up the moment. "This is what we have been talking about, getting the batting and the bowling combined together and we saw that in this game - it was just tremendous."

Taylor was modest about his own achievement, but there was a hint of Malcolm Marshall about the way he glided to the crease and targeted a full length. "I think I have bowled more brilliantly than this before," he said. "I am able to go out and exploit the conditions, get the ball in the right area and upset any team on a given day. So after we had that 70-odd run lead, we knew we had to go out and apply some pressure."

After Benn bowled Steve Harmison to complete the rout the intensity of the moment engulfed West Indies and they could barely contain their joy. Following the handshakes - and a hug between Gayle and Pietersen - the home side embarked on a slow lap of honour that took them from the dressing room past the historic Kingston Cricket Club, round past the new George Headley Stand and finally alongside the partying masses on the mound. In one lap they took in the changing face of West Indies cricket, from the new to the old and back to the new again.

For Gayle this was an especially sweet moment and the end of an epic personal Test. He was impressive in the field and his controlled 107 showed how he has matured as a player since taking the captaincy. This was only Gayle's 17th Test victory in his 76-match career, so moments to savour like this have not been regular occurrences.

"The first time being skipper on my home ground was a lot of pressure as captain and batsman in front of home crowd and my family," he said. "I tried to put that aside and focus on job and it was really brilliant to get a victory."

In some quarters around the Caribbean there is a feeling of resentment that this series has been billed by the English - certainly the media, if not the players - as nothing more than an Ashes warm-up. The IPL, too, has been looming over this match as England players earned their chance at the big money.

Now, though, the West Indies have given the locals their chance to crow and the way the mound was humming well after play suggested they are going to enjoy every moment. It is often said how West Indies are everyone's second favourite team, and even the most hardened and patriotic of England fans will find it hard to deny them their celebrations. Is this a rebirth? It doesn't half feel like one.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Colleen on February 8, 2009, 21:52 GMT

    I am happy for Chris Gayle and his team. I am hoping this victory trend continue because in 2000 Jimmy Adams as captain won England in England in 3 to 4 days then after that it was a disgrace in all the other games. I hope history will not repeat itself. Darren Powell need to step up it is full time he start winning games for us His average is a shame. Selectors don't use this victory to overlook our team problems. Marshall need to spend eight hours in the net every day when there are no games because he need to get back to where he was last year against Australia.

  • Fatima on February 8, 2009, 20:39 GMT

    simply fantastic, we will get there someday

  • Michael on February 8, 2009, 14:39 GMT

    I think it's great that the same crew who brought us '387-4', 'To Kill a Captain' -the Tale of the Second English Civil War-, to name but two of their latest to go along with 'XI draw at Lords' parts 1,2,3,4,5 etc, should be so quickly back in action. '51 All Out' is the definitve modern blockbuster,a creative epic so brilliantly tailored as to be flawless in its execution. Carry on chaps! By the way has anyone thought of changing the three lions to 3 lambs?

  • Scott on February 8, 2009, 14:34 GMT

    A great day for West Indian cricket, and one hopefully that can be built upon with what appears to be a good little nucleus of attack and defense from both batting and bowling perspectives. The addition of Nash as an anchor to the middle order takes much of the pressure off Chanderpaul to always be aware that its score or bust. A decent keeper-batsman and who knows how far the windies could improve? For England though what can we say? Only 6 months out from what will be a very interesting Ashes and it seems that both teams are trying to outdo the other's mediocrity. Whilst Pietersen will get much blame for this mess, its the players like Bell, Panesar and Read who need to be served notice. For the next test, Shah- who has shown similar form on the outer to Duminy (though Shah is much older) must be picked. Swan should be seriously looked at before the Ashes- much though i like monty) because he will trouble the aussies more- and who knows what to do with the keeping situation.

  • Kristan on February 8, 2009, 12:12 GMT

    West Indies have definately improved. England however, I think came into this match with one eye on the ashes. Collingwood, Bell should not be playing, they have languished in the past 12-18. It wouldnt have hurt to try some new batsman this series, test them out against a good but not overly powerful WI bowling attack. Why did Anderson get left out? He has been Englands best bowler in recent matches. I hope Simon Jones is fit for the Ashes, because despite Broad's match figures, I think he is still a little inocuous. Panesar poor form has really surprised me, time for something to be done here. As for WI, great win. However, unless these players get some consistency they wont win series. Hopefully this could be it though. Gayle, Sarwan, Benn will be the key for consistency. We know Chanderpaul and Taylor are great players and have proven over several years to be the teams best at the respective trade. Both sides are in the middle of Test nations, one I feel going up the other down.

  • Geoffrey on February 8, 2009, 11:23 GMT

    It looked like a 15 year ago flashback.. brittle English batting meets full incisive West Indies pace. This series will surprise everyone I think.. and it's good for the game in the windies that some of that old spark has returned. There is more steel in this English side than was shown in this last test. I don't expect them to capitulate. But Benn was a revelation and if the poms are going to keep relying on one man to make all their runs then they really will lose the series.

  • Keith on February 8, 2009, 10:40 GMT

    I believe that a good barometer in sporting success is the atmosphere within the dressing room.It appears too obvious that there are far too many schisms within the England set up. Too many egos, too many cliques...... Ask yourself which one ego stands out way above the rest and just how this same person is within the side on AND off the pitch.I believe the team would be far better without this individual being in the side(WHO? 1 GUESS ONLY !!).When only 2 members of our national side are paid (ridiculous)life-changing sums of money to play in a (again, ridiculously) lucrative short competition surely that's going to have some effect on the other 9. Is it telling them they're not good enough ? Is it telling them that greed brings it's own "rewards"?. It would be great to see an England team with smiles on their faces.So long as the infantile egos rule the roost I don't see this happening.. When a player like Paul Collingwood, one of our best, is down, there MUST be problems.

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