Another day, another epic. For England at this World Cup it was a routine day at the office. Each and every match they have played has been suffused with tension and drama, and there was no reason to expect their final group match against the West Indies to be any different. Perhaps it was the most astonishing of all. In time no doubt they will be accused of making it up.
To avoid going out of the competition, England simply had to win. For large parts of the match, both when they were batting and bowling, they looked like losing it. But nothing involving England in this competition has been straightforward and suddenly they found something extra. In 14 balls they took the last four West Indies wickets for three runs and won by 18 runs.
The margin sounded like a country mile in a low-scoring contest but it was a last-ditch escape from certain elimination. It seemed their last chance had gone when they had a boundary catch turned down with a six being awarded instead and it demanded resilience on a grand scale to come back from that blow.
Three of their most prominent contributors were wholly unlikely: Luke Wright's steady 44 at No 7 prevented their innings from capsizing, Ravi Bopara's gentle but accurate seam brought him two for 22 from 8.4 overs, and off-spinner James Tredwell, who seemed destined to spend the tournament carrying drinks, won the man of the match award for taking four for 48. They were assisted by the more familiar figure of Graeme Swann who bowled quite nervelessly in four separate spells when the pressure could hardly have been higher and took two wickets in the pulsating finale.
Having been bowled out for 244, England were around 30, maybe 40, short on a pitch that was far removed from the rubbish heap on which they played their match on the Chennai ground against South Africa (they won that particular nerve-shredder by six runs).
If England's batsmen had messed it up, things took an immediate turn for the worse when West Indies went in. Chris Gayle came out slugging and took 18 runs from both the third and fifth overs of the innings. When he was out, his mantle was assumed by the West Indies captain, Darren Sammy, who also wielded the long handle mercilessly and struck three sixes in his 29 balls.
Tredwell offered England their first suspicion that the match might not be beyond them. In his first four overs he had Gayle leg before (a review failing to save him), Devon Smith smartly stumped by Matt Prior, scuttling along the ground to retrieve the ball, and Darren Bravo excellently caught low at slip by Andrew Strauss.
When Bopara joined the attack further incisions were made and England were favourites. Briefly, the fierce striking of Kieron Pollard reignited the West Indies innings but he was outsmarted by Swann. Still needing 94, West Indies looked done.
Twice in the past three weeks, England have been dismantled by improbable innings played by unlikely batsmen. Kevin O'Brien scored a hundred in 50 balls to set up Ireland's historic win, the Bangladesh No 10, Shafiul Islam, scored 24 from 24 balls to lead his side to victory. And now along came Andre Russell, in his second one-day international.
Striking the ball as cleanly and ferociously as those previous opponents, Russell, a Jamaican who used to be a mean sprinter and showed it with his running between the wickets, batted in an uncomplicated fashion. He was accompanied by one of England's more durable adversaries, Ramnaresh Sarwan, who knew that all he had to do was tick over.
Strauss changed the bowlers regularly to keep the pressure on and in the 38th over with West Indies on 204, still 40 short, he seemed to be rewarded. Russell slightly underclubbed his drive and Jonathan Trott took a catch running back. But his momentum took him towards the boundary and as he fell backwards he appeared to touch the advertising which covers the rope. Eventually, a six was signalled. Instead of being 204 for seven, West Indies were 210 for six.
Still, they went on and Sarwan explained to Russell that there was no rush. The score had reached 222 when Russell stepped across his stumps to Tredwell and was leg before. Swann was brought back for his last over and England knew it was now or never. It was now. His first ball to Sarwan bit and lifted spitefully and Sarwan jabbed it on to his thigh pad from an inside edge whence it looped to Ian Bell at short. Two balls later, Kemar Roach's ambitious drive was scooped by Chris Tremlett an inch from the ground (Tremlett had had a horrible day until then).
The last wicket, and victory, came when Sulieman Benn went for two, but the fact that he was running through porridge meant he had no hope of beating Trott's dead-eye dick throw over the stumps from fine leg.
England now have to wait for the outcome of the two remaining matches in Group B to learn their World Cup fate. If Bangladesh beat South Africa and West Indies beat India they will be knocked out. If either Bangladesh or West Indies are beaten, though, England's seven points will take them through to the quarter-finals.
If they make it, their batting must make drastic improvements. England made three changes to their side yesterday because they knew they needed some fresh spirit. Jimmy Anderson and Paul Collingwood were dropped, Ajmal Shahzad was omitted because of a hamstring injury which will cause him to miss the rest of the tournament. In came Tredwell, Tremlett and Wright for their first games.
Strauss and Matt Prior gave England a cracking start against the new ball but gave it away. So, too, did Trott, who has a few credits and Ian Bell, who does not. It took a determined Wright to take them to something approaching respectability. The World Cup desperately needs England to stay in.
How England clawed victory from certain defeat
England's victory over the West Indies has kept them in the tournament – for the time being at least. It was another case of last minute heroics as with the West Indies just six wickets down they looked like they would win easily:
222-6 (41 overs) A partnership of 72 between Ramnaresh Sarwan and Andre Russell takes the West Indies to 222 – 22 runs short of victory...
222-7 (41.2 overs) But James Tredwell takes his fourth wicket of the innings when he traps Russell lbw.
222-7 (41.3 overs) Tredwell has a huge appeal turned down against Sulieman Benn and the Bajan survives the England referral after what seems like an age.
223-8 (43.1 overs) Graeme Swann returns to the attack and quickly removes Sarwan after the batsman nudges the ball on to his thigh pad and is caught by Ian Bell at short-leg.
223-9 (43.3 overs) Kemar Roach attempts to loft the ball down the ground but mistimes his shot and is caught well by a diving Chris Tremlett at mid-off.
225 all out (44.4 overs) Benn wafts at a wide delivery from Ravi Bopara and edges down to fine-leg before being run out going for a second by the alert Jonathan Trott. West Indies have lost four wickets for three runs in 3.4 overs and a certain victory has passed them by
* Qualify if Bangladesh tie or lose to South Africa on Saturday
* Qualify if Bangladesh win and the West Indies lose to India on Sunday
* Go out if Bangladesh win and the West Indies tie
* Go out if Bangladesh win and the West Indies win.
Chennai (One Day): England (2pts) beat West Indies by 18 runs; England won toss
*A J Strauss c Gayle b Russell 31/1/3/39/50
†M J Prior b Russell 21/0/3/21/35
I J L Trott c Gayle b Bishoo 47/0/7/38/52
I R Bell b Roach 27/0/1/48/55
E J G Morgan c Thomas b Bishoo 7/0/0/13/21
R S Bopara b Russell 4/0/0/16/25
L J Wright c Russell b Bishoo 44/0/5/57/70
J C Tredwell run out 9/0/0/20/28
T T Bresnan not out 20/0/2/27/37
G P Swann b Russell 8/0/1/8/14
C T Tremlett c Thomas b Roach 3/0/0/7/5
Extras (b1 lb4 w15 nb2) 22
Total (48.4 overs) 243
Fall 1-48, 2-79, 3-121, 4-134, 5-134, 6-151, 7-192, 8-216, 9-238.
Bowling K A J Roach 9.4-2-34-2, S J Benn 10-0-56-0, A D Russell 8-0-49-4, D J G Sammy 3-0-28-0, D Bishoo 10-0-34-3, K A Pollard 8-0-37-0.
D S Smith st Prior b Tredwell 10/0/0/27/36
C H Gayle lbw b Tredwell 43/1/8/21/26
*D J G Sammy b Bopara 41/3/2/29/44
D M Bravo c Strauss b Tredwell 5/0/1/15/14
†D C Thomas b Bopara 9/0/1/20/28
R R Sarwan c Bell b Swann 31/0/3/68/112
K A Pollard lbw b Swann 24/2/1/27/32
A D Russell lbw b Tredwell 49/3/2/46/56
S J Benn run out 2/0/0/12/16
K A J Roach c Tremlett b Swann 0/0/0/2/0
D Bishoo not out 0/0/0/1/5
Extras (lb8 w3) 11
Total (44.4 overs) 225
Fall 1-58, 2-67, 3-91, 4-113, 5-118, 6-150, 7-222, 8-223, 9-223.
Bowling T T Bresnan 7-1-46-0, G P Swann 10-1-36-3, C T Tremlett 5-0-47-0, J C Tredwell 10-2-48-4, R S Bopara 8.4-2-22-2, L J Wright 4-0-18-0.
Umpires S J Davis and B N J Oxenford.