Strauss praises 'outstanding' Bell for seeing his side home


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The Independent Online

England left Fortress Lord's yesterday with a deceptively simple win to start their first summer as the world's top Test side. They will regroup in Nottingham tomorrow for the second match of a series which is beginning to promise much more than looked possible a week ago.

Although England achieved what was universally predicted by five wickets in the early afternoon, they were made to fight. It took a fifth-wicket partnership of 132 between Alastair Cook and Ian Bell to ensure that England survived early wobbles which seemed to threaten a day of drama.

West Indies could be satisfied with their endeavours, playing with a spirit that has not always been evident on recent tours to these shores. But the discord that has split their cricket in recent years seemed to have returned with some stinging remarks by their former captain, Ramnaresh Sarwan, who was overlooked for this trip.

Andrew Strauss, England's captain, said: "When you're chasing in Test cricket there is always pressure on your shoulders, which is why it was an outstanding performance from Cook and Bell to see us home. They played in a professional and classy manner and in the end it wasn't that difficult."

For West Indies, it was disappointing after they had made early inroads. But as so often in their recent past, disharmony continues to stalk them. Sarwan, who was not selected for this tour and is instead playing for Leicestershire, was lacerating in his criticism of the present regime in an interview with BBC Radio.

"The coach said some negative stuff that hurt me mentally and emotionally," he said. "I was broken down, not from the stress of playing, it's just certain individuals have drained me mentally. It took a toll on my confidence and the way I play."

It is not difficult to work out he was talking about the West Indies coach, Ottis Gibson. The tourists' captain, Darren Sammy, said they would welcome anyone into the dressing room – with speculation mounting that another former captain, Chris Gayle, may hotfoot it from the Indian Premier League and could be available for Friday.