West Indies v England, 5th Test, Trinidad, 4th day March 9, 2009

England prepare to throw caution to the wind

Stuart Broad had a tough day in the field, but he may yet have an important final-day role to play © AFP
For a short passage of play leading up the close of the fourth day at the Queen's Park Oval the series came to life in a way that hasn't happened since Jerome Taylor's spell at Sabina Park a month ago. Fidel Edwards steamed in at Kevin Pietersen, almost taking the batsman's head with him with the final ball of the day, as England tried their best to engineer a position from which they can pull off one of their most extraordinary Test wins.

It is so unlikely to happen that it is barely worth considering. England needed 178.4 overs to end West Indies' first innings and at most would have something around 60 to pull off such a heist. Yet they have nothing to lose except the series, of course, but that is lost if they don't win here. Surely it is better to go down valiantly, trying something spectacular, rather than playing for a face-saving draw just so that the scoreline doesn't look so damaging.

The way England approached the 15 overs they faced on the fourth evening, especially the mindset of Pietersen, suggested they are ready to give it one final shot. Ever since they were rolled for 51 in Kingston they have been chasing this series and that elusive final wicket in Antigua has come back to haunt them.

Pietersen, though, looked in a more positive frame of mind than at any stage in the series save, perhaps, for his brief onslaught against Sulieman Benn in Jamaica that ultimately brought his downfall for 97. England are in a situation where they can free their minds completely. If they succumb to a tumble of wickets, so be it, and that could just create the platform from which Pietersen can unleash his full repertoire. That alone would make the final day worth watching.

"I think we have to go in believing," Graeme Swann said. "We have to be as positive as possible tomorrow and hopefully get a score on the board that we can then, probably not defend but create a few doubts for West Indies and see what happens.

"You never know," he added when asked if there is really a chance of England taking 10 quick wickets. "We got blitzed out in Jamaica on a wicket that was probably better than this one and we'll be hoping for a bit of magic effort from somebody. I think we've toiled hard in this series and haven't had a great deal to show for it and probably feel we are due a magic session here or there. So hopefully it's tomorrow."

Swann, who heads home after this match for surgery on his troublesome elbow, sent down another 45 overs for his hard-earned three wickets. In the series he has bowled more than any other England player despite only playing three matches.

"It's always hard keeping going when it's 40 degrees and you see the Digicel girls dancing and you'd rather be in there with them," he said, still able to manage a smile. "It is hard work and we don't have a great deal to show for it, so we will be hoping tomorrow that those frustrations can pass by and we can win a Test."

Will they have to dangle the carrot at West Indies to give themselves a chance? "Probably, if we can get a decent score on the board with [Chris] Gayle at the top of the order, if he bats there, he's certainly going to come out playing his shots," he said. "I think the West Indian way is to be more positive than negative so I'm not sure how many of their batsmen will be able to look at a fairly small total and just be happy to defend."

Swann's assessment that West Indies play a positive way may normally be true, but in this game everything has been focused on the series result. Unless England are rolled for next to nothing, safety first is likely to remain their priority. All England can cling to is the hope of a miracle, and that doesn't give them much to go on.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo