England advance gathers pace

England 566-9 dec West Indies 55-1
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The Independent Online

So, they were not living in the land of make believe. When England declared their intention to respond powerfully after the debacle in Kingston it seemed they had taken up permanent residence.

For days they had muttered about walking the walk and not simply talking the talk, a favourite expression of the land's citizens. But yesterday in the third Test they did more or less what they had proposed and enhanced their chances of drawing level in the series against the West Indies.

There is a long haul ahead before this can happen – three days of disciplined cricket will be necessary for a start – and the pitch here is showing little inclination to help. Had the groundsman had proper time to prepare it, say 36 days instead of 36 hours, it would have played like a road, a harsh comparison with the beach which forced the abandonment of the second Test up the road.

The tourists took their first innings to 566 for 9 declared. Since this was the fourth time in five years that they had passed 500 after being asked to bat they have stumbled on a secret: lose tosses where the quality of the pitch is uncertain. West Indies were 55 for 1 at the close, the menacing Chris Gayle perishing on the cusp of carving Stephen Harmison apart, but they are staring at a mountainous total.

England's endeavours on the second day were built around Paul Collingwood's eighth Test hundred, his third against the West Indies and also his third in nine innings. After 43 Test matches, Collingwood remains the most unsung of England's batsmen, always seen as a member of the chorus line who is reluctantly accorded star billing.

Fittingly, given his North-east roots, he is a canny lad, canny enough to know his limitations and play within them. This was an uncharacteristic innings, fluent and in its early stages determinedly attacking. Collingwood does not do prettiness or jauntiness as a batsman, but he had clearly made up his mind that digging in, nudging and nurdling was in nobody's interests.

England were deeply wounded by their collapse to 51 all out in the first Test in Jamaica, hurt that they had recorded England's third-lowest score in Test history, horrified that they had so terribly misjudged the opposition, fearful that they might not be as good as they yearned to be. They had to hit back here and the ground farrago that resulted in the abandonment of the second Test and the start of the new match at the Antigua Recreation Ground have helped their cause.

Had sand not stopped play at the Sir Vivian Richards Ground, it was always likely to be a surface on which a positive result might be difficult to achieve. The enforced switch to the ARG bewildered the West Indies. Suddenly, they were confronted with a different kind of pitch, one that threatened to be fast and sporting. It played much more kindly than anybody could have dared hope and it happened to be accompanied by England's refreshing mindset. They knew there was no point waiting for something to happen, they had to make something happen.

The measure of their improvement from the second innings in Jamaica was plain in the scorecard. Each designated member of the top five at least equalled the team's total. That is why Collingwood emerged in a blaze of strokes after the nightwatchman Jimmy Anderson was out early. He was greeted with a fast bouncer from Fidel Edwards, which flew high and wide of the slips. This seemed only to increase the batsman's resolve. There was a cluster of drives, pulls and cuts as he outscored Kevin Pietersen.

West Indies were altogether more attuned to the game than they had been on the opening day when they had veered towards being casual. But it was significant that Edwards needed more support from the other end with the second new ball. It was not forthcoming and although Jerome Taylor, the hero of Kingston, twice struck the batsmen, England were allowed to set the tempo.

Pietersen was not quite himself, but then normal standards cannot be applied. He was dropped on 25 when Edwards failed to hold on to a return catch and only rarely did he exhibit his customary authority. It is as well that the others learn to cope without him occasionally and, although he made 51, he was only the fifth-highest scoring batsman. There was something oddly satisfying about this. Of all England's present batsmen, Collingwood and Pietersen appear to like batting together more than any other pairing. They put on 129 for the fifth wicket, the seventh time they have shared a stand of above 100 in England's middle order.

Hardly had Pietersen passed 50 for the 28th time in 86 Test innings than he was bowled, dragging on a ball from Taylor. Two balls later Andrew Flintoff, who had walked in to a huge burst of applause, was walking back again. Flintoff was desperately unfortunate to receive a ball which hit the halfway line of the football pitch that runs across the pitch at the back of a fast bowler's length. It shot through at decent speed and Flintoff was in no place to repel it. Flintoff has batted 12 times for England since his return to Tests last summer and has made only one fifty. Questions will continue to be asked about whether he remains good enough for the pivotal No 6 position and the answer may not be what England's selectors want to hear.

Two in three balls and if West Indies had broken through again, doubts might have overcome England, though at 405 for 6 these are likely to be somewhat less profound than when you are 23 for 6 as England were at Sabina Park. They indulged in some merry late-order hitting, Matt Prior, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann all lending Collingwood entertaining support in partnerships of 62, 62 and 37. The contrast could hardly have been more marked. They walked the walk.

Shot of the day

*In Stephen Harmison's first over, Chris Gayle decided he had to go. The bowler tried a bouncer which Gayle hooked over long leg. Unfortunately for him, he was so intent on demolition that two balls later he drove a half-volley to mid-off.

Ball of the day

*The one from Jerome Taylor that bowled Andrew Flintoff second ball. It hit the ridge in the surface caused by the football pitch halfway line and shot along the ground at pace. Stephen Harmison could be seen licking his lips.

Moment of the day

*Cricket is always shooting itself in the foot and a foot was at issue. Collingwood drove the ball into his foot or the ground and was caught. It needed a dozen TV replays to show he was not out by when everyone had dozed off.

Recreation Ground Scoreboard

Second day of five; close of play, West Indies won toss

England – First Innings

(Overnight: 301 for 3)

*A J Strauss c and b Edwards......... 169

350 min, 278 balls, 24 fours, 1 six

A N Cook c Smith b Gayle......... 52

159 min, 134 balls, 5 fours

O A Shah run out (Taylor)......... 57

141 min, 100 balls, 8 fours, 1 six

K P Pietersen b Taylor......... 51

202 min, 132 balls, 4 fours

J M Anderson c Ramdin b Edwards......... 4

23 min, 16 balls

P D Collingwood c Smith b Hinds ......... 113

305 min, 202 balls, 14 fours

A Flintoff b Taylor......... 0

3 min, 2 balls

M J Prior c Chanderpaul b Nash......... 39

87 min, 61 balls, 6 fours

S C J Broad c Ramdin b Hinds......... 44

59 min, 55 balls, 6 fours, 1 six

G J Swann not out......... 20

23 min, 17 balls, 3 fours

Extras (b10 lb1 w1 nb5)......... 17

Total (for 9 dec, 680 min, 165.2 overs)......... 566

Fall: 1-123 (Cook) 2-276 (Shah) 3-295 (Strauss) 4-311 (Anderson) 5-405 (Pietersen) 6-405 (Flintoff) 7-467 (Prior) 8-529 (Broad) 9-566 (Collingwood).

Did not bat: S J Harmison.

Bowling: Taylor 28-7-73-2 (nb1) (5-0-19-0, 5-1-6-0, 5-2-12-0, 3-1-16-0, 5-3-4-2, 5-0-16-0); Edwards 26-2-75-2 (nb3 w1) (2-0-11-0, 4-0-12-0, 6-2-12-0, 9-0-30-2, 2-0-3-0, 3-0-7-0); Powell 26-3-103-0 (5-2-14-0, 3-0-21-0, 3-0-5-0, 10-1-37-0, 5-0-26-0); Gayle 13-1-41-1 (6-0-16-0, 6-1-19-1, 1-0-6-0); Benn 39-5-143-0 (nb1) (3-1-4-0, 8-0-27-0, 4-0-25-0, 2-1-6-0, 11-3-21-0, 4-0-16-0, 4-0-28-0, 3-0-16-0); Hinds 22.2-4-86-2 (15-2-59-0, 4-2-6-0, 3.2-0-21-2); Nash 11-2-34-1 (7-2-21-0, 4-0-13-1).

Strauss's 50: 111 min, 82 balls, 8 fours. 100: 200 min, 167 balls, 14 fours, 1 six. 150: 285 min, 242 balls, 20 fours, 1 six. Cook's 50: 153 min, 124 balls, 5 fours. Shah's 50: 96 min, 70 balls, 7 fours, 1 six. Pietersen's 50: 197 min, 130 balls, 4 fours. Collingwood's 50: 108 min, 77 balls, 9 fours. 100: 280 min, 186 balls, 13 fours

West Indies – First Innings

*C H Gayle c Anderson b Harmison......... 30

45 min, 32 balls, 5 fours, 1 six

D S Smith not out......... 10

67 min, 35 balls, 2 fours

D B L Powell not out......... 2

21 min, 19 balls

Extras (b4 w1 nb8)......... 13

Total (for 1, 67 min, 13 overs)......... 55

Fall: 1-45 (Gayle).

To bat: R R Sarwan, S Chanderpaul, B P Nash, R O Hinds, †D Ramdin, J E Taylor, S J Benn, F H Edwards.

Bowling: Anderson 4-0-9-0 (nb2 w1); Flintoff 5-0-22-0 (nb3); Harmison 3-0-18-1 (nb3); Broad 1-0-2-0 (one spell each).

Umpires: D J Harper (Aus) and R E Koertzen (SA).

TV replay umpire: N A Malcolm. Match referee: A G Hurst.