England completed their first Test victory of 2007, dodging the showers on the fourth day at Headingley, sending West Indies to their heaviest defeat by an innings and 283 runs. Ryan Sidebottom’s triumphant return continued as he took another four to finish with 8 for 86 in the match, while Steve Harmison cranked up his pace in a hostile final spell.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since England last came out on top in whites - and plenty more has passed over Leeds in the last two days - but victory was sealed in the fifth over after tea when Harmison bounced out Jerome Taylor. The days of West Indies doing the same to England tailenders is a distant memory and they barely resembled a Test side during much of this game. It is England’s first authentic Test victory since their last appearance on this ground against Pakistan last August, although Darrell Hair’s intervention handed them the final match of that series.
Once again swing and seam proved West Indies’ undoing against footwork and judgment which fell well short without the experience of Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Only Dwayne Bravo, whose second fifty of the series was their only one of the match, showed the required skill and made a powerful statement that he should bat higher in a brittle order.
There was a strong belief that it wouldn’t take long for England to finish the job, needing seven more wickets, and 33 overs was enough split over four passages of action. After Sunday’s washout play began in conditions more Antarctic than Antigua and West Indies’ felt suitably uncomfortable. Although Liam Plunkett began waywardly it didn’t take much to bring the breakthrough against a static Chris Gayle. Plunkett adjusted his line, slanting the ball across Gayle, and found the edge.
Sidebottom shared the early duties and was much more accurate. He wasn’t afraid to keep the ball well up to the bat and there was little sense of permanency from West Indies. Rain forced an early lunch after a four-over period of play, where, much like the batsmen, temperatures barely made it into double figures.
Sylvester Joseph was a walking lbw candidate - planting his foot across the crease and playing round his front pad - and Sidebottom duly struck on the resumption with his fifth leg-before of the match. In Sidebottom’s next over Smith was taken at the second attempt by Andrew Strauss at first slip. England practise catching rebounds and this time the work paid off. Again, though, the weather interrupted England’s momentum and when they returned under brighter skies before tea the bowling lost some of its intensity.
Runako Morton could have fallen at any moment, getting nowhere near a series of flat-footed drives, but Bravo again showed he has the best technique of what remains. He was especially strong off his legs, including an effortless punch-drive off Monty Panesar’s first ball, and also cleared long-off with a majestic six.
The sixth-wicket stand of 63 was West Indies’ best of the match, but the resistance didn’t last as Morton’s recklessness predictably brought his downfall when he top-edged a pull. Despite the hopelessness of the situation, Morton’s innings was another indication of a poor attitude and lack of application. Harmison continued to spray the ball around but, with Michael Vaughan back at mid-off, his confidence showed signs of returning. He pushed up his pace when the lower order came in and hit 90 mph. Denesh Ramdin’s wicket owed plenty to a dubious call from Asad Rauf, the second bad decision West Indies suffered in the match. Panesar had a quiet game but out thought Bravo with a clever piece of bowling as the end came nearer. It was all over next ball.
With a win under their belt England should now go on and dominate the final two Tests, although Old Trafford is unlikely to provide quite the seamer-friendly conditions that were present over the last four days. England would quite happily take Headingley around with them, but against this West Indies side conditions should not make much difference.
Source:Cricket NewsMore on:Andrew Strauss, england, Ryan Sidebottom, Steve Harmison, Sylvester Joseph, West Indies
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