At Lord's, July 22, 23, 24, 25, 26. England won by 210 runs. Toss: West Indies. Test debut: D. J. Bravo
England put aside their poor form of the one-day series to complete their fourth Test victory of the summer. The final margin was convincing, but the result was not sealed until the last morning, when Lara became a distinguished 100th Test victim for Giles. A sharply turning ball beat the advancing batsman and crashed into middle stump, bringing one of nine wickets in the match for a man who had admitted to thoughts of retirement earlier in the year, after injury problems and press criticism.
England's other hero was Key. He owed his place to an inattentive driver rear-ending Butcher's car in London traffic when he was on the way to his physio with a thigh injury. Whiplash forced Butcher to drop out, ending a run of 42 successive Tests, and Key grabbed the opportunity, driving and pulling powerfully. Meeting the Queen at tea on the first day, by which time he had 90, failed to put him off. He reached his maiden Test century and just kept going, passing Len Hutton's 196, the previous highest score for England against West Indies at Lord's, en route to 221. Dropped by Gayle off Edwards at 16 and reprieved on 58 when Smith, also at second slip, was unsure whether he had taken a catch off Best cleanly, Key faced 288 balls in 426 minutes, with 31 fours. The signature shots were chunky straight drives, one of which whistled back past Edwards before he could breathe, let alone stop it. But when Best tried to bowl short, Key pulled him effortlessly three times in an over.
He put on 291 in 60 overs with Strauss, surpassing England's previous second-wicket best against West Indies, 266 by Peter Richardson and Tom Graveney at Trent Bridge in 1957. Strauss departed after making his third century in as many internationals at Lord's, and then Key added a further 165 with Vaughan, who put some indifferent form behind him to record his 12th Test hundred, his second in successive innings against West Indies. By the end of the first day, when England had piled up 391 for two, Lara's decision to put them in already looked disastrous: the early clouds soon cleared and the pitch turned out to be blameless. Edwards and Best were fast but wayward. Although next day Collins belatedly found the right line for his in-swingers, as the last seven wickets tumbled for 41, it mattered little: England were 527 for three when the slide started.
With Harmison off-colour, West Indies made a bright start in reply, Gayle and Smith putting on 118 before both fell to Giles, who had rediscovered the teasing loop that had been missing since he remodelled his action during the winter. Then Lara was given out, caught behind off Giles, by umpire Harper when replays suggested the ball had only brushed his pad, and West Indies feared the worst. Lara was unimpressed by the decision, later issuing an oblique statement to explain why he tarried at the crease: "I still find it impossible not to walk when I know I'm out." But Chanderpaul, back to his crustacean best after an indifferent run, nudged and nurdled - and unfurled the occasional bent-kneed belt through the covers - to his 11th Test century. He shared a handy stand with the 20-year-old Dwayne Bravo, who flicked his first ball in Tests for four and made a polished 44, though he was becalmed in the forties for ten overs before swishing a lifter from one Jones through to the other. Chanderpaul then combined with Jacobs and Banks to ensure that the follow-on was avoided. Flintoff, who had been given a cortisone injection in his injured heel and had not been expected to bowl, claimed three quick wickets at the end.
England built quickly on their lead of 152, Strauss and Trescothick adding 71 in 22 overs on the third evening. Next morning, Key was run out after a poor call from Vaughan, who made amends by gliding to his second century of the match, joining George Headley and Graham Gooch as the only batsmen to have achieved this in a Test at Lord's. Flintoff chimed in, blasting to fifty in 38 balls, with two huge sixes, and the declaration came when he was out, leaving West Indies an improbable target of 478 in around 130 overs. The early departures of Smith and Sarwan - jumping across his stumps and pinned leg-before cheaply by Hoggard for the second time in the match - suggested one of the collapses in which they have specialised in recent years. But Gayle had other ideas, and took on Harmison in epic style. He lived dangerously: in one over, he edged Harmison between wicket-keeper and slip and then sliced a difficult chance to Thorpe in the gully. Gayle flashed 13 fours and a six in a thrilling display, but it seemed too good to last - and eventually, after hurtling to 81 out of 102, he inside-edged a yorker into his stumps and was gone.
England's main concerns on the fifth morning were drizzle, which delayed the start by ten minutes, and Lara, who had advanced confidently to 44 before Giles threaded that killer ball through the gate. Chanderpaul, reprieved first ball after gloving Giles to Key at short leg, was an immovable obstacle after that. He collected painful bruises to arm and knee, and ended just three short of emulating Vaughan's twin centuries, having stood unbeaten for ten hours 14 minutes in the match. But regular wickets at the other end ushered England to the seventh win in their last nine Tests against the once-mighty West Indies, and their third in a row against them at Lord's. The most memorable moment was the dismissal of Best, who had been greeted by Flintoff from slip with a cheery "Mind the windows, Tino!'' as he prepared to face Giles. Best walked straight into the baited trap: the windows survived, but he did not - stumped for three after an inglorious swipe, which stood all summer as a symbol of West Indian naïveté and folly.
Man of the Match: A. F. Giles.
Steven Lynch is the former editor of Cricinfo