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Windies lurch from world-beaters to woeful losers

Before the series, if you had said that England would have retained the Wisden Trophy after the first two Tests, and with some ease, most people would probably have accused you of having had a few too many rums. But now, having seen the difference between the two sides, it's no surprise at all. Today was West Indies' 40th Test defeat in only six years, out of a total of 120 defeats in their history - it has been a sobering fortnight for them.

Application, patience and cool heads are qualities which have been sorely lacking from the West Indies team, but virtues which have already given England an unassailable lead. Graeme Smith, South Africa's captain, said during West Indies' recent tour there that "they should get rid of a little bit of bravado and concentrate on getting the cricket right", and adding, "If you look bad doing it, who really gives a damn?" Well, West Indies still do, obviously. The way the players strut around the pitch and the hotels, you'd think they were world-beaters, not woeful losers. No wonder Ricky Skerritt, their manager, has had enough.

Experts billed the series as a big-scoring bonanza with two powerful batting line-ups sure to put inexperienced bowlers to the sword, but it hasn't turned out like that at all. Fidel Edwards and Tino Best, described as fast and nasties by Nasser Hussain, have been just about the only bright sparks for West Indies, and they helped to keep the early exchanges in Jamaica even. But enter Stephen Harmison, whose out-of-the-blue 7 for 12 broke the stalemate, and England haven't looked back since.

But for the rain, this Test would have been another embarrassing early bath for West Indies, over inside three days. Harmison's three quick wickets before lunch on the first day were a massive turning point. It dragged the initiative back England's way after Chris Gayle threatened to blow them off course. It also summed up how Michael Vaughan and his bowlers refused to panic, sticking to their disciplined plan like glue.

Both West Indies' innings in this match followed similar patterns. The majority of their runs came in big partnerships: Gayle and Devon Smith put on 100 out of 208 in the first innings, then Ridley Jacobs and Shivnarine Chanderpaul clubbed together 102 out of 209 in the second. These two stands temporarily put England on the back foot, but Vaughan refused to let things run away from him. He didn't fret, but kept faith in his bowlers, who in turn repaid him with disciplined displays - and that is why West Indies couldn't build on those two handy platforms.

In his post-mortem, Brian Lara singled out the ability of Hussain, Mark Butcher and Graham Thorpe to hang in when the going got tough as crucial. It was just another reason why England won this Test. Butcher and Hussain's long partnership was crucial. They came together at 8 for 2, rode out a tricky evening session on a juiced-up wicket, and then made it to lunch together the next day - all in all, pivotal in giving England an unbeatable advantage. It wasn't pretty, but West Indies need to learn that having the walk doesn't mean you've got the talk.

At least West Indies' fielding hasn't been quite as abysmal as it was in South Africa, but it has still been inferior to England's. Paul Collingwood, on as a substitute, took a blinder at point yesterday, and Hussain's run and jump to remove Chanderpaul summed up everything about England so far: determined, driven, decisive. Chanderpaul's drop of Butcher, meanwhile, proved the opposite for West Indies, and was a key miss.

So while Skerritt packs his bags, many local journalists, and at least one former player, think Lara should do the same. He has now lost 18 Tests as captain - the most in West Indies' proud history - and the feeling remains that he is too detached from the rest of the squad. A lack of team unity is the locals' main gripe, and Lara's decision to send Jacobs out ahead of himself yesterday at a crucial time is being put down to a lack of leadership. As Skerritt's not around to make the public apology this time, perhaps Lara should stick his neck out and do it himself, before he loses his remaining support, as well as the series.

Freddie Auld, Wisden Cricinfo's assistant editor, is following England's fortunes in Jamaica and Trinidad.