North 296 for 8 (Clarke 112, Mullaney 52, Hain 51) beat South 204 (Pope 68) by 92 runs
They may or may not, as the late BBC Rugby Union commentator Bill McLaren might have said, "be singing and dancing in the streets north of an irregular line drawn somewhere between the South Chilterns and the North Malverns," but either way the North players were blasting out their chorus of "We all grew up in a council house, now we want a cheque from Andrew Strauss" from the dressing room as England's director of cricket handed over GBP40,000 following a crushing victory founded on the brilliance of Joe Clarke.
The 3 Ws Oval, which hosted this series decider because the Kensington Oval has been given over to a music festival, is situated within the idyllic surroundings of the University of West Indies, Cave Hill campus, overlooking the sea. Three thirty-foot high stumps mark the spot where the great Sir Frank Worrell is buried and looms large over the playing area along with the West Indies' Hall Of Fame.
On a pitch that became increasingly sluggish over the course of the day, the North team wisely elected to bat and despite the early loss of Alex Davies, who saw his stumps splattered by another distinctly rapid delivery from the exciting left-armer Tom Barber, they continued the pattern of these matches by getting off to a flier.
Man of the Series Clarke, who had so frustrated assistant coach Andy Flower with his dismissal on Wednesday was imperious, being particularly harsh initially on Jamie Porter and later on pretty much everyone. In tandem with Sam Hain, who himself could only resemble Jonathan Trott more if he shaved his head and surgically inserted a diastema into his front teeth, Clarke put on 143 for the second wicket and with the score motoring along at over six-an-over with wickets in hand, dreams of 350 or more were not far-fetched.
But Hain played a hideous swipe the ball after reaching his 50 to be bowled by Porter and then Clarke fell in chaotic fashion soon after. A vigorous but distinctly speculative appeal for an lbw against Keaton Jennings had been turned down, but in the ensuing hullabaloo Clarke saw the opportunity to steal a leg-bye. Jennings was fixated on the umpire and entirely unaware of Clarke. Laurie Evans' smart pick up and direct hit at the non-striker's end was just enough to see the back of the man that Mark Ramprakash had identified as the player most likely to be playing within the senior England set-up before any of his other colleagues in the North side. His 112 from 98 balls contained five sixes and ten fours.
The innings was in danger of imploding in a manner to which watchers of the England Test team have become only too accustomed of late. That it didn't was due almost entirely to the busy ministrations of the skipper Steven Mullaney, who for the third time in the series rebuilt the North's effort with a 50-plus partnership alongside the estimable Brett D'Oliveira and proved the value of experience accompanying some of the more precocious talents.
Mullaney was the victim of another direct hit, this time from Sam Curran off his own bowling and the North closed on 296 for 8. The loss of Nick Gubbins to a bad-looking hamstring injury (that will be assessed in London on Monday) was a further massive blow to the South side. These teams have very much been selected along the lines of six batsmen, a keeper and four front line bowlers, so much depended on the makeshift opening pair of Bell-Drummond and Ollie Pope. Both thrived initially but after Bell-Drummond again fell when well set on 37 with the score on 87, the loss of Gubbins was acutely felt.
South skipper Sam Northeast, in stark contrast to his Northern counterpart, got out rashly for a 24 ball 14 when really he needed to keep the prodigiously talented but young Pope company.
Lancashire's Matt Parkinson, consistently landing his leggies on a challenging length, tormented the South batsmen and went through his entire ten-over allocation without conceding a boundary while producing 1970s style figures of 1 for 27. Rawlins threatened to turn the game but his dismissal sparked a collapse of 2 for 3 from six balls, Saqib Mahmood again impressing when he bowled the full fast yorker at which he is ludicrously adept yet oddly reluctant to employ in the middle of the innings. In fairness he ended as the series' leading wicket taker with nine wickets; seven of which were clean bowled.
The innings inevitably dribbled out, 93 runs short of the target. It was the least exciting of the three matches but it should take nothing away from what has been an enthralling series in which a number of young players have impressed the selectors, and a few more seasoned professionals such as Mullaney and D'Oliveira have selflessly provided the necessary ballast to make for splendid contests.
After the game Strauss spoke glowingly about the contributions across the three matches of Clarke, Gubbins, Rawlins, Parkinson, Pope and Matt Critchley. Alongside Barber, who really does possess some exciting pace, causing D'Oliveira and Clarke to hop and sway on numerous occasions today and Curran, who every day looks more like a bowling allrounder with an ever increasing bag of (perhaps Jade Dernbach inspired) variations at the death, there is plenty to be excited about the future of England cricket out here in Barbados. And given what is transpiring in New Zealand, it was a pleasing sight.