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March 7, 2009
West Indies 92 for 1 (Gayle 49*, Powell 0*) trail England 546 for 6 (Collingwood 161, Strauss 142, Prior 131*) by 454 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
While the bowling tactics employed by West Indies were understandable and may yet be justified by hindsight, they made nonetheless for grim and soulless viewing. Aside from a 45-minute burst in the morning session, in which Fidel Edwards cranked up his pace to dismiss Andrew Strauss for 142, there was no disguising the disdain for the match situation. Gayle merely spread his fielders to the four corners and relied on a medley of part-time spinners and medium-pacers to grind through the overs. Ironically, as soon as he did turn back to one of his front-line men, Lionel Baker, ten minutes before tea with the score already approaching 500, a wicket followed two balls later. Collingwood, with his sights set on a second double-century, was struck on the back pad and sent on his way, via a referral.
But that was immaterial, as wickets were of next to no consequence to West Indies, for whom the bulk of the workload was carried by the plop-it-on-a-length left-arm spin of Ryan Hinds. He toiled through a further 19.5 overs in the day, most of them in an exasperating post-lunch session, but could not add to first-day wicket of Kevin Pietersen. Gayle's right-arm darts were also utilised to the max, and there were maiden international overs for both Lendl Simmons and the excreable Devon Smith, whose six hideous deliveries were among the most inept ever seen in Test cricket. Still, Collingwood and Prior could do little but accept the offerings that came their way, and they did so to full effect in a fifth-wicket stand of 218 in 53.3 overs.
The pair came together in the first hour at 268 for 4 following the swift demises of both Strauss and Owais Shah, who ran himself out for 33, only three balls after resuming the innings he had aborted on the first afternoon. With Prior pushed up to No. 6 to accommodate the extra bowler, West Indies briefly sensed that their opportunity was knocking. But they were swiftly knocked back by a fine counter-punching performance. Never afraid to put bat to ball when offered sufficient width, Prior peppered the arc between cover and third man with a selection of juicy cuts and drives. He struck five fours in his first 24 runs, a flurry that - ironically - set the tone for what followed.
At the other end, Collingwood was his typical steady self. Less flamboyant than his partner, but no less effective, he picked off the bulk of his runs with clips and pulls into the leg side. He took his time to get going, which he eventually did by middling an Edwards short ball through midwicket, but by the time Gayle ordered his team into a full retreat, he was in full flow. Two fours in consecutive overs from the innocuous Brendan Nash rushed him through the nineties, and he coolly chiselled a leg-stump delivery round the corner to bring up his fourth hundred in his last 12 innings for England.
Midway through the afternoon session, Collingwood converted his hundred into a 150, while Prior dedicated his second Test century to his new baby Johnny (probably because it had helped send the infant to sleep). By that stage, only their nearest and dearest cared any longer. Eight bowlers were used in all, not including the barely mobile Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and the three frontline men - Edwards, Baker and the ever-maligned Daren Powell - were outbowled 63 overs to 89 by the dibbly-dobbly-wobbly trio of Nash, Gayle and Hinds.
West Indies did at least show a modicum of intent at the beginning and end of their day's fielding. Strauss, who resumed on 139 not out, added only three runs in the morning before stepping across his stumps to be bowled around his legs by Edwards, while Shah - back in the middle after a painful attack of cramp - squandered his opportunity with a suicidal single to the fit-again substitute, Dwayne Bravo, at midwicket. And then, at the opposite extreme, there was Baker, who went wicketless in his only previous Test in Dunedin earlier this year, but finally opened his account with two late strikes - first Collingwood for 161, then Stuart Broad, who slogged a length ball to long-off shortly before the declaration.
But, when an arduous day finally came to a close, Gayle might have been justified in shrugging "I told you so" to his many detractors. England rotated all their resources, including the debutant Amjad Khan who overstepped three times in a nervy first over, and they wasted both of their referrals as well, but could not find a way through Gayle's broad and blazing blade.
Gayle was one away from his half-century at the close, having slammed Graeme Swann for two sixes in his first over and Monty Panesar for first-ball four through the covers. Panesar did strike in his penultimate over of the day when Devon Smith played down the wrong line and was bowled, but with Ramnaresh Sarwan still waiting to make his appearance, West Indies ended the day confident that whatever their means to an end may be, that end will justify all that has gone before it.
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