A long day at The Oval, a longer night in Piccadilly

It was a long summer, a long 31 years if truth be told. But at last England have beaten West Indies in a Test series. It was an unforgettable experience. Nobody could have predicted that we would win on the fifth day in front of a capacity crowd cheering us to the hilt.

It was a long summer, a long 31 years if truth be told. But at last England have beaten West Indies in a Test series. It was an unforgettable experience. Nobody could have predicted that we would win on the fifth day in front of a capacity crowd cheering us to the hilt.

If only I could have been on the Oval pitch when the coup de grâce was applied and Dominic Cork won a clear lbw decision against Courtney Walsh. I had limped off earlier in the afternoon, unable to bowl as the climax approached.

Before play started and again at lunchtime on Monday I had a local anaesthetic to relieve the pain in my left ankle. There has been some soft tendon trouble there for a while and it has been aggravated slightly by weeks of work. The footholes, days old by now, made it sorer still.

In the early afternoon Nasser Hussain called me back into the attack. I had bowled two earlier spells of 14 overs and six overs and taken two wickets in each and the discomfort was minimal. But this time was different. I had to put my left foot down gingerly in the delivery stride. The speedo showed I was bowling at 75mph when my usual rate is above 80mph.

West Indies were eight down, I told Nasser I couldn't continue. He told me to leave the field but to make sure I was back on for the finale. Unfortunately, I failed to make it. I had my boots off in the dressing-room when the rest of the team ran in,ecstatic at the achievement.

In reality, there was no chance of West Indies getting the 374 runs they needed to win in the final innings. But England could not be sure of that. They had set off at an express rate the evening before. We needed early wickets to stop their gallop, and we got them. The key to their residual hopes was Brian Lara. When he was in with Jimmy Adams he tried to dominate as only he can. When I persuaded Adams to flick one off his legs to a backward square-leg, who had just been moved finer for that purpose, Lara was joined by Ramnaresh Sarwan.

This boy can bat. He has an array of strokes and with the lack of fear of youth he played many of them. Nasser has said that he started to have a few distinctly queasy feelings as the stand developed. I had some butterflies as well, but they never submerged my belief that West Indies had too much to do.

Lara has succeeded in his attempts to dominate me in the past and a couple of times now I unintentionally dropped short and he swivelled. Sure I have got him out in the past - but one of those occasions he had made 375. The balance has shifted now, though, and if I had to earmark my key wicket of theseries I would say it was Lara's in the second innings at Lord's when he failed to cope with extra bounce and fended to gully.

Nasser is a fine captain to bowl for. He will always have an encouraging pat but he hates having to run from mid-off to chase a drive if I have bowled a half-volley - and he lets me know that he hates it. Lara played some excellent strokes but it isn't like it used to be, and I know it.

Sarwan was run out in the sort of situation that can arise with the pressure on to go for runs. All then revolved around Lara. When he was out leg before there was some criticism that the ball had pitched outside leg stump. If he was unfortunate, it was again redressing the balance. England's bowlers have been unlucky throughout this series in having appeals turned down.

Darren Gough was rightly made England's man of the series. He has performed wonderfully and I feel our opening partnership is now cemented. It's four decades since an opening pair went through a whole summer together and we now have 12 Tests in a row. We are different personalities - he's a jokester, always bubbly, I'm far more down to earth - but we have always got on well.

The system of central contracts had helped us both. I have been much fresher before the start of every Test and I'm afraid the counties have got to learn to accept it with good grace. Of course, I like bowling for Somerset, but England simply has to be the priority.

The team celebrated together, first in a Chelsea restaurant, later in a bar in Piccadilly Circus. Matt Dawson, the England rugby player, joined us. People drifted off individually. I stayed until 2am, which is extremely late for me. Reflected the nature of the feat I suppose.

I am having an ultra-sound scan on the ankle to check the precise damage. But I don't envisage any problem. A month's rest should be sufficient and then we regroup for a long winter. We can hardly wait.

Andy Caddick will be writing for the Independent on Sunday during the tour of Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

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