In utterly bizarre circumstances England finally won a match last night. They would have had it no other way. The tourists defeated the West Indies by one run following a dire miscalculation of the arcane regulations governing shortened matches.
As night closed in on Providence Stadium, the West Indies batsmen were offered the opportunity to leave the field because of bad light. Assuming they were one run ahead under the Duckworth-Lewis method they were ushered off by their coach and manager waving frantically from the dressing room balcony. But they were actually one run behind. A wicket, the seventh of the West Indies' innings, had fallen to the last ball bowled and this, crucially, changed the balance of a game which was already as tight as a steel drum.
For a few minutes the West Indies thought they had won and the bulk of an excited crowd left the ground assuming that their hero Shiv Chanderpaul, who had struck 26 runs off an over from Stephen Harmison, had turned the match their way. But England whose captain Andrew Strauss was carrying a crumpled piece of paper carrying the required information thought they knew better. The DL sheet which at first glance looks sufficiently complicated to defeat professors of higher mathematics was checked again.
To have beaten England at that stage of the match, it showed that the West Indies, if seven wickets down, needed to have scored 246 runs. But they had reached only 244. The loss of Denesh Ramdin to the second ball of the 47th over, bowled by Stuart Broad, had crucially altered the balance.
The West Indies players and management were stunned. England were simply relieved to have secured victory at last after failing to do so in every international this winter. That they were handed it on a plate was hardly their fault. Maybe it was the only way they were ever going to win and maybe it will change everything on the home straight of their winter, which contains four more one-day matches.
As their captain Andrew Strauss said they would have taken pretty much any victory. "After that ball having just taken a wicket it looked like we were a run in front when the umpires were conferring but you can never be 100 per cent sure. And when they started walking off they was a little bit of confusion. Our support staff were clear we had won. Those Duckworth Lewis charts are quite hard to decipher at times. No-one likes to see a finish in that manner because it's not clear cut. That's what the Duckworth-Lewis tables are there to do. But you need to be sure you have read the tables correctly. It took me a little bit of time to get my head round what they were saying. When you have to factor in the wickets and what ball it is it's easy to make mistakes but they've been around for a long time now and you shouldn't."
Blame was not being apportioned directly but it was clear the West Indies coach, John Dyson called most of the shots. He was holding the DL chart and was the most insistent that the eighth wicket pair of Darren Sammy and Nikita Miller left the field. With 22 balls to bowl and 27 needed, it could have gone either way.
West Indies were probably behind until the batting powerplay which they took at the start of the 39th over. A 173 for 3 they needed an incisive intervention and Chanderpaul provided it. He plundered the 40th over bowled by Harmison for 26 runs, five fours and a spectacular six, hooked from one knee over fine leg.
England had given themselves a real opportunity of victory by scoring 270 for seven. Owais Shah, back at home in the one-day arena, scored a beautifully upholstered 62 and Paul Collingwood a busily acquisitive 69.
For much of the West Indies innings it seemed as though it would be just enough. England dismissed Chris Gayle early and when they managed to prise out Ramnaresh Sarwan it was 131 for two. The powerplay – England had made a miserable 17 from their five overs – seemed to change things. But England were able to breathe again when they removed Chanderpaul.
Kieron Pollard added some belligerent blows but he too perished. The wicket that really mattered was that of Denesh Ramdin, leg before to Broad who was celebrating long before the umpire raised his finger. Light meters were already being consulted along with DL charts by the time Miller joined Sammy. Dyson waved, the batsmen looked at the umpires and fatally turned to the dressing room.
Stat of the day
When Steve Harmison began the 40th over of West Indies’ innings, England were in the driving seat: six balls later the game was back in the balance. Shivnarine Chanderpaul dispatched the hapless Harmison for 4, 6, 4, 4, 4, 4, to take 26 off the over.