West Indies survive in thrilling finale
West Indies 544 (Chanderpaul 147*, Nash 109, Gayle 102) and 114 for 8 (Swann 3-13) drew with England 546 for 6 dec (Collingwood 161, Strauss 142, Prior 131) and 237 for 6 dec (Pietersen 102)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
West Indies regained the Wisden Trophy for the first time since 2000 in a thrilling finale to the series in Trinidad. Left with 66 overs in which to bat in their second innings after England's lunchtime declaration, West Indies shipped wickets at regular intervals but clung on tenaciously to reach the close on 114 for 8. The heroes of the closing overs were Denesh Ramdin, who produced the rearguard of his life to finish unbeaten on 17 from 87 deliveries, and Fidel Edwards, their man for a cliffhanger, who reprised his nerveless role in Antigua last month by facing up to Monty Panesar with nine men round the bat, and blocking out the final five deliveries of the series.
For West Indies it was a sensational escape, their second in three Tests either side of last week's bore-draw in Barbados, and one which sealed their first series victory since 2004. In the process, the result vindicated Chris Gayle's controversial tactics at the start of the game, not to mention their selection of an extra batsman. Having set their sights on a draw from the first morning, the tactic came excruciatingly close to backfiring as England produced some of their finest batting and bowling of the series to take the match to the wire, but in the end, the momentum West Indies gained from their incredible 51-all-out victory in Jamaica at the start of the series proved sufficient to inch them over the line.
After four days of ennui, the finale to the series was a grandstand affair. It began with England resuming on 80 for 3, with quick runs the priority if they were to have any hope of forcing their way back into the series. Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior responded superbly by hustling along in a fifth-wicket partnership of 106 from only 88 balls, but England's lunch-time declaration was arguably too cautious, given how much was at stake in the day. Had they declared at the moment of Prior's dismissal for 61 from 49 balls, with a lead of 209 and half-an-hour of the session remaining, it might ultimately have made the difference. But with Pietersen unbeaten on 86 at the time and closing in on his 16th Test hundred, Strauss was unable to make the bold call. Pietersen eventually reached his landmark from a brisk 88 balls, but in the final analysis, those lost five overs might have made the difference.
Nevertheless, in their previous five innings of the series, West Indies had batted for 157.4 overs, 89.2 overs, 128 overs, 194.4 overs and 178.4 overs. To expect them to roll over inside 66 was optimistic in the extreme, but optimism is exactly what England carried with them into the field. Led magnificently by James Anderson, who produced a brilliant spell of fast and aggressive swing bowling, and kept in the hunt by the spin pairing of Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann, they hustled West Indies at every opportunity, claiming three wickets in the first 19 overs to rule out any prospect of a successful run-chase, before chipping away unrelentingly at the middle and lower order.
The first to go was Lendl Simmons, who opened the innings in place of the injured Chris Gayle, but was turned inside-out by an Anderson legcutter that zipped off a leading edge and screamed low into the slip cordon, where Paul Collingwood scooped an inspirational catch with his right hand, inches from the turf. Three overs later, and Devon Smith - never comfortable against the spin of Swann - slogged wildly across the line and was trapped plumb lbw for 17.
Swann, whose final figures were a mesmeric 21-13-13-3, then claimed the big one, as Ramnaresh Sarwan propped forward outside off, and nicked a catch low to Collingwood's left at slip. One delivery later, and Collingwood was so nearly back in the action again, but Shivnarine Chanderpaul's first-ball edge dropped tantalisingly short at slip. Swann, however, was not to be denied. Having resumed after tea on 78 for 3, West Indies lost the crucial wicket of Chanderpaul three overs into the final session, as he played back to a delivery which held its line on off stump and rapped him just inside the line.
With some justification, Chanderpaul called upon his team's final referral to try to engineer a reprieve, but that decision came back to haunt his partner, Ryan Hinds, later on in the session, when he was adjudged caught at slip off Panesar for a diligent 20 from 93 balls, even though replays suggested his pad, and not his bat, had been responsible for the deflection. No referral could have saved Brendan Nash, however. A maiden Test centurion in the first innings, he made just 1 from 12 balls before Anderson, swinging the ball both ways at will in a brilliant six-over spell, zipped one back into his knee-roll from round the wicket.
As Nash departed, so the saviour of the innings, Ramdin, arrived. His maiden Test century in Barbados last week gave him the sheen of confidence that the situation required, even though for the early part of his innings, he looked like an lbw waiting to happen as he was persecuted by Anderson's late inswingers. But with massive tenacity he endured, as the captain, Gayle, eventually appeared at No. 8 in the order after suffering a torn hamstring in the first innings.
Gayle's immobility meant that Panesar became his personal tormentor - of the 42 balls he faced in his innings, 36 were from the left-arm spinner, whom he clubbed down the ground for his solitary scoring stroke, but against whom he ultimately had no response. Panesar, who lost 25% of his match fee for excessive appealing in the first innings, was utterly unfazed by the hole in his pocket, and roughly one in three of his deliveries to Gayle resulted in a raucous appeal. Of these, one led to a wasted referral, another looked to be stone-dead in front of middle stump, and a third finally got the desired result, as Gayle propped uncomfortably forward and umpire Tiffin finally raised his finger.
At 107 for 7 with nine overs remaining, England had the opening they needed, but with Ramdin in the zone and refusing to yield, there was only one end on which they could work. Anderson capped his day by shattering Daren Powell's stumps with a perfect inswinging yorker, but with eight deliveries of his series remaining, he simply could not blast his way past Ramdin's ever-broadening bat. Eventually, it was left to Panesar to produce the miracle that England needed, but Edwards, for the fourth time in his career, after Test-saving efforts against Zimbabwe, India and England at Antigua, held firm.
Having patted the fifth ball of Panesar's over back down the pitch, Edwards raised his arms in triumph, knowing that his team could not now be beaten. Moments later a crestfallen Strauss wandered across to shake hands and finally extinguish a contest that had barely fizzled for 11 sessions before bursting into full Technicolor in the final day-and-a-third. England arrived in the Caribbean believing victory was theirs for the taking, but they've been thwarted by a team with greater depths of resolve than perhaps even the men themselves had realised.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo