England warmed up for Saturday's NatWest Series final against Zimbabwe by narrowly losing a thrilling contest to the West Indies by just 3 runs - Alec Stewart remaining not out on exactly 100.
Having restricted the visitors to 195-9 from their 50 overs England were expecting to pick up their fourth straight win of the competition.
Somerset's Marcus Trescothick began in the same confident manner which has accompanied his entry into the international fold, driving Reon King through the covers off the first ball of the innings. A second boundary in the over and another in Mervyn Dillon's first over (courtesy of a Franklyn Rose misfield) immediately put the West Indies on the back foot but in the third over they came close to dismissing Alec Stewart.
A legside ball from King was flicked at by Stewart and wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs, diving to his left, claimed the catch. Umpires Kitchen and Leadbeater conferred and referred the decision to the replay booth to see if the ball had carried. A lengthy delay occurred before the verdict was given in favour of the batsman.
Runs flow in the sunshine
The next over, the fourth, was bowled by Dillon to Stewart, and provided the game's first maiden but the flow of runs wasn't interrupted for long as England reach 38 without loss by the 8th over. The sun-drenched crowd then kept themselves amused with the 'Mexican Wave' whilst Stewart greeted Rose's introduction into the attack with pulls for 2 and 4.
Trescothick had been kept fairly quiet for a while and when King gave him room outside the off stump his frustration brought a rash stroke and his downfall - Jacobs taking a routine catch behind the stumps. The left hander had faced 36 balls for his 23 and hit five fours and he and Stewart had put on 46 for the first wicket.
As in the last two matches Andrew Flintoff appeared at no. 3 in the England order. Confidently off the mark first ball, he too perished to the Jacobs/King combination after playing a loose slash. The West Indies sensed an opening and this intensified when Graeme Hick was dismissed first ball, with an inside edge onto his off stump. Reon King had taken 3-2 in eight balls and reduced England to 49-3 - Graham Thorpe successfully negotiated the hat-trick delivery, pushing it to cover.
Accuracy of Rose's throw
Stewart's pre-delivery routine of twirling the bat around now involves a touch of the helmet with his right glove but his batting certainly remained orthodox as he looked to add to the century he hit at Edgbaston on Tuesday.
Once the 15 over fielding restrictions had been lifted Jimmy Adams turned to his leg spinner Nagamootoo and was rewarded in his first over. Thorpe hesitated when turning for a second run and the accuracy of Rose's throw from the deep proved fatal.
England's plight worsened when Hussain only made 5 before edging Nagamootoo to Jacobs and the West Indies celebrated when they thought they'd got Craig White in a similar fashion but umpire Leadbeater was unmoved.
Stewart moved on to his half century, coming off 86 balls, with 7x4s and the total passed 100 shortly afterwards, coming in the 30th over.
Stewart and White put on 63 for the 6th wicket and it looked to have stabilised the England cause but the introduction of Adams resulted in another run out and the departure of White for 19. Ricardo Powell's throw from deep backward point found him inches short of his crease. England still needed 58 with just 4 wickets left.
Run a ball rate required
Adams switched his bowlers around. With the run rate rising to almost a run a ball England were grateful for Stewart's ability to rotate the strike and to punish bad balls.
33 were needed from 36 balls when Ealham pulled Rose for four and that looked to have confirmed England's victory charge but then the Kent all-rounder seemed to throw his wicket away, hoiking across the line and offering a simple chance to Chris Gayle.
Home hero Paul Franks made his way to the wicket with England needed 26 to win from 31 deliveries and he scored his first run for his country by pushing Nagamootoo to long on. Stewart reached 89 to become the first batsman in the tournament to reach 300 runs.
An on-driven boundary from the bowling of King took the Surrey player to 98, leaving 12 to win from 3 overs. Stewart's second successive one-day century arrived in the 49th over - from the 146th delivery he'd faced, having hit eleven 4's. This was his 4th one-day hundred.
Nevertheless the West Indies took the match into the final over. England needing 5 to win had Franks on strike, to face the spin of Chris Gayle. As the two batsmen tried to scamper a leg bye from the first ball Nagamootoo shied at the bowlers end and a direct hit ran out Franks for 4. The plus for England was that Stewart had regained the strike but he could only muster a leg bye from the next ball. Darren Gough had 4 balls to score 4 runs but he played all around a full toss and was bowled first ball.
Alan Mullally's batting pedigree is well known and Chris Gayle was able to snare him lbw from the penultimate delivery to leave the West Indies victors by 3 runs. Alec Stewart remained undefeated on exactly 100. Gayle had finished with 2-21 but the pick of the bowlers was King with 3-30.
Earlier the West Indies' innings had closed on 195-9 with Chris Gayle top scoring with 37 - Jimmy Adams made 36. Craig White led the wicket-takers with 3-35, whilst there were 2 wickets apiece for Darren Gough and Mark Ealham.