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 eventually achieved what was universally predicted by five wickets in the early afternoon, they were made to fight by resolute opponents at last determined to reclaim their heritage. 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 asunder in recent years seemed to have returned with some stinging remarks by their former captain, Ramnaresh Sarwan, who was overlooked for this trip.
By the time Cook steered to gully after lunch, the match was all but over with only two runs needed of the target of 191. Bell duly scored them with a typically delightful four struck down the ground.
Andrew Strauss, England's rejuvenated captain, said: "When you're chasing in Test cricket there is always pressure on your shoulders, which is why I thought 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. We knew there were no demons in the wicket and, in some ways, chasing 190-odd is a bit easier than chasing 100. You can go out there and bat, and over the course of two or three hours, you have enough time to get on top and feel comfortable."
There was also the Lord's factor. England, who have named an unchanged squad of 13 for Nottingham, must wish they could wrap it up and carry it round. They have not been beaten in a Test match there since 2005, when Australia won by 239 runs. Of the 14 matches played between then and now, England have now won seven and had the better of most of the rest.
For West Indies, it was disappointing after they had made early inroads into England's second innings. The two wickets they took in a ferocious burst on Sunday night were followed by two more early yesterday, when Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen fell to catches at slip and wicketkeeper respectively. 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.
He said: "The coach said some negative stuff that hurt me mentally and emotionally. 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. Everything went away."
Although Sarwan declined to name names, it is not difficult to work out he was talking about the West Indies coach, Ottis Gibson. When Gibson took over, he made it clear he wanted more from senior players and the West Indies board eventually publicly pronounced that Sarwan needed to be fitter.
The timing could hardly have been worse after a performance which forced England to dig deep. The tourists' captain, Darren Sammy, said: "The guys did well. When nobody gave me a chance we kept showing spirit."
But he 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.
* West Indies have been fined for their sluggish over rate. The match referee ruled they were four overs short of the necessary target, meaning the players will lose 40 per cent of their match fees and Sammy 80 per cent. One more over-rate offence in the next 12 months and the captain will be banned for a match.