There was to be no grandstand climax, no miraculous reversal of fortune. After a brief fright in the morning, England did as expected and won the first Test at a canter yesterday. Thus was the cricket world order as constituted in the early 21st century restored.
It looks stunningly simple, does it not? Needing 191 in their second innings to go 1-0 ahead in the series, England had them by early afternoon with five wickets still in hand. Alastair Cook, with 79, and Ian Bell, with an unbeaten 63, put on 132 for the fifth wicket in some style.
But this was not as routine a week at the office as it sounds. Instead, it was the sort where you are glad to get home for the weekend, pour a stiff one and thank the Lord you can regroup in a couple of days, having avoided serious mishap or a run-in with the boss.
Far from being the freewheeling affair that was predicted by all and sundry outside the tourists' dressing room, England were pushed much further than expected. On Sunday evening, when the adrenaline was coursing through West Indies' veins like spinach through Popeye, and again yesterday morning, when two more wickets fell in a flurry of intensity, there existed the possibility of England folding in a heap.
However, this was not a slow, stifling Abu Dhabi in the winter, when England were all out for 72 chasing 145 to win. It was slow, cold Lord's in the early summer, a ground where England have been unbeaten for 13 games. They felt at home here, whereas on that grotesque afternoon in January they felt stranded in the middle of the desert, which actually they were.
Cook set out his stall from the start and Bell played with the elan that had come to mark his play for a year or more, the under-achieving Asian tours now seeming a mere blip. West Indies did not bowl as well as they had done first up: they were too easily milked, the ball grew softer and so did their cricket.
But what a start to the day there was. Tension hung in the air all round the ground. West Indies, bowling like the wind, on Sunday evening had made two hurtful incisions into England's batting. At 10 for 2, the home side simply had to regroup whereas West Indies needed more wickets early.
The ball passed the bat three, four, five times as Kemar Roach worked up a head of speed from the pavilion end. Fidel Edwards looked less of a handful but he let a few slip to make sure nobody could settle yet. In Cook and Jonathan Trott, England had the obduracy to surmount this hurdle.
When Trott edged Roach wide of second slip for four there was relief in the camp that the ball had fallen to ground before reaching the cordon. It lasted only until the next delivery, which bounced a shade more and to which Trott played an identical shot – except that this time it took an aerial route to the left of Darren Sammy who moved smartly at second slip to pouch an excellent catch: 29 for 3.
In came Kevin Pietersen to still the concerns. He was not about to perish wondering and why should he? Roach and Edwards came off, into the attack came the gently-paced Sammy and the debutant Shannon Gabriel. Pietersen responded by brutally pulling Gabriel through midwicket for four and then thought he should reprise the shot, if only because he could.
On this occasion he could not, and he under-edged to the wicketkeeper, Denesh Ramdin. At moments like these – and there have been some in the past seven years since Pietersen made his Test debut in England's last defeat at Lord's, against Australia in 2005 – he can look plain daft. But the good times are always worth waiting for, always worthy of forgiveness. Except it was now 57 for 4.
Another wicket then and it might have been as tight as the Lord's match between these sides in 2000, when England required a similar target. Much more low-scoring than this overall, it finished with England reaching the 188 they needed with two wickets left.
But there was nothing in the pitch, even on this, the fifth day. There had been too much rain in the preceding weeks, it could be nothing else but slow. Without their frontline bowlers, West Indies were a different proposition.
With two runs wanted, Cook chopped into the gully, but the only difference it made was the loss of his scorecard asterisk. Bell struck his fifth four, down the ground, to complete the victory inside an hour of the afternoon session.
Lord's has become a comfortable place for England. This unbeaten run of 13 games here is their best since 1962-71. Yesterday's win was the more welcome for not being a formality. The home bowlers had to keep going on the fourth day, on an unresponsive track, with the opposition showing plenty of gumption. The home batsmen began to atone for some of their winter shortcomings.
Stuart Broad was man of the match for his figures of 11 for 165, and he did not disguise his delight at being on all three honours boards. The second Test starts in Nottingham on Friday, where a quicker Trent Bridge pitch should enable England to go 2-0 up. But nobody now thinks of it as a shoo-in.
Lord's (Final day of five): England beat West Indies by five wickets
England won toss
WEST INDIES First Innings 243 (Chanderpaul 87no, Broad 7-72)
ENGLAND First Innings 398 (Strauss 122, Bell 61, Trott 58)
WEST INDIES Second Innings 345 (Chanderpaul 91, Samuels 86, Broad 4-93)
ENGLAND Second Innings Overnight 10-2
A N Cook c K A Edwards b Sammy 79
127 balls 10 fours
I J L Trott c Sammy b Roach 13
21 balls 3 fours
K P Pietersen c Ramdin b Gabriel 13
22 balls 1 four
I R Bell not out 63
103 balls 5 fours
J M Bairstow not out 0
Extras (b4 lb3 nb11) 18
Total (for 5, 46.1 overs) 193
Fall: 1-1, 2-10, 3-29, 4-57, 5-189.
Did Not Bat: †M J Prior, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, G P Swann.
Bowler Spells: F H Edwards: 8-0-24-0 (1nb) (7-0-16-0; 1-0-8-0), K A J Roach: 13-2-60-3 (10nb) (8-2-41-3; 5-0-19-0), S T Gabriel: 5-1-26-1 (5-1-26-1), D J G Sammy: 10-1-25-1 (8-0-22-0; 2-1-3-1), M N Samuels: 10.1-0-51-0 (11.1-0-51-0).
Progress: Day Five: England 50 in 12.4 overs, 100 in 24.3 overs, Lunch: 131-4 in 32 overs (Cook 53, Bell 25), 150 in 38.1 overs. A N Cook 50 off 78 balls (8 fours), I R Bell 50 off 84 balls (3 fours).
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) & M Erasmus (SA).
3rd Umpire: Asad Rauf (Pak).
Referee: RS Mahanama (Sri Lanka).
Timeline: How day five unfolded
11:22am Wicket - England 29-3, Trott 13
The worst possible start: Jonathan Trott, England's Chanderpaul, is smartly caught at second slip by Darren Sammy. Trott could only fend at a quicker ball from Kemar Roach.
11:50am Wicket - England 57-4, Pietersen 13
KP at his most infuriating: he follows a four with a sneering swipe at Shannon Gabriel, but a thin edge is caught behind. A bad shot at a worse time, and England are worrying.
12.46pm 50 stand - England 109-4
Ian Bell has been a steadying partner for Alastair Cook, and one of his trademark late cuts off Marlon Samuels brings up a very necessary fifty partnership between them.
1.02pm Lunch - England 131-4
A session which started badly ends well for England. Scoring at more than four runs an over, Cook and Bell have dragged England to within 60 wins of victory and a 1-0 lead.
2.06pm 100 stand - England 157-4
West Indies need wickets after lunch but give the ball to Samuels. A few overs later, three leg byes bring up Cook and Bell's century stand from just 148 deliveries.
2.33pm Wicket - England 189-5, Cook 79
Cook slips out of character and tries to win the game with a swipe. He edges it, bringing Jonathan Bairstow in, with the chance to score the two runs needed for victory.
2.36pm England win by five wickets, 193-5
It is not Bairstow but Bell who wins the game, with a drive for four off Samuels. He looks pleased and proud and rightly so: his stand with Cook saved the day. JACK PITT-BROOKEReuse content