England 330 and 231 for 3 (Key 93*, Flintoff 57*) beat West Indies 395 and 165 (Sarwan 60, Harmison 4-44) by seven wickets, and lead the series 3-0
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Robert Key and Andrew Flintoff sealed England's sixth consecutive Test victory of the summer, and the ninth in their last ten matches, as a spirited West Indian side was overwhelmed in the final session at Old Trafford. Despite grabbing two early wickets and holding the upper hand for much of the day, West Indies were left to rue their untimely collapse on Sunday afternoon - a target of 231 never seemed likely to trouble this confident England team, even in the absence of their pacemaker-in-chief, Graham Thorpe.
Thorpe, whose finger was broken by Fidel Edwards during his heroic first-innings 114, was only ever likely to bat in an emergency. But at 27 for 2 with both openers back in the pavilion, and then again at 111 for 3, that emergency seemed just around the corner. But Key and Flintoff ended all such notions, first with some thoughtful resistance against a fiery spell from Fidel Edwards, and then with a glorious finale, in which Flintoff the home hero reached his fifty - his seventh in consecutive Tests - with a vast straight six, before tickling the winning runs to third man.
Though Flintoff stole the limelight, it was Key who took the bulk of the plaudits. His place in the side had been under scrutiny after a couple of loose dismissals at Edgbaston, but with neither Thorpe nor Mark Butcher available for Thursday's fourth Test, he was this time able to relax and play his natural game. And for that, his team-mates were extremely grateful.
Key's confrontational approach had impressed many observers during his debut series in Australia two winters ago, and it was to the fore once again today, especially during his running duel with Edwards, which involved several skiddy 90mph bouncers and a considerable amount of mid-pitch banter and eyeballing. Key took it all in his stride, and as his innings progressed the West Indians wilted. The final nail in their coffin came in the very first over after tea, when Sylvester Joseph dropped Key on 58, a catchable chance to his left at second slip. After that, it was England all the way.
Such a comprehensive victory had seemed an eternity away earlier in the day. Although Steve Harmison had needed just six balls in the morning to wrap up the West Indian second innings for 165, England in reply lost both openers in a jittery pre-lunch session. Marcus Trescothick was bowled through the gate by a beauty from Collymore that clipped the top of off, while Andrew Strauss played an uncharacteristically rash pull against Pedro Collins, that skidded low to Shivnarine Chanderpaul at midwicket for 12.
Collymore nearly cleaned up Key with another jaffa that curled round his outside edge and over the top of off stump, and without Thorpe to steady the run-chase, England were decidedly edgy. Much was resting on Michael Vaughan, and it showed in an innings of untypical nerviness. He had a huge letoff on 1, when he top-edged an Edwards bouncer just out of Carlton Baugh's reach as he sprinted towards square leg, and he later inside-edged Collymore for four past his leg stump. Though he showed glimmers of his best form with a selection of those dreamy cover-drives, Vaughan was very much playing from memory.
In the end, it was Chris Gayle's offspin that made the break. His very first delivery exploded off a length and took the shoulder of the bat on the way to Brian Lara at slip, and Vaughan trudged off for 33 hard-earned runs. The cheer that greeted Flintoff's arrival could have been heard back up in his old watering holes in Preston, but it was as nothing to the one that awaited him later in the day, as the crowd's anxiety gave way to a carnival atmosphere.
Even so, it would be a while before Flintoff or his adoring fans could contemplate partying. At 111 for 3 and with Edwards in full flight, survival was the primary objective. Even with two men back for the hook, Flintoff was sorely tempted, but for the most part he resisted, taking one blow to the shoulder and another firm rap on the gloves. Key, meanwhile, continued to wind Edwards up with a running commentary, and together they carried England to tea at 146 for 3 - still 85 runs adrift but, one sensed, with the bulk of the job done.
Key drilled Collymore's first ball after the break for four, but when that catch went down in the same over, the fight went out of the West Indian attack. Ramnaresh Sarwan was belatedly introduced to tempt Flintoff into self-destruction - which, after a couple of wild swings, led to the improbable sound of a Lancashire crowd cheering a Flintoff defensive shot. A couple of huge sixes later, however, and it was all business as usual. England's bandwagon just keeps on rolling.