Forget the nine wickets Stephen Harmison and Matthew Hoggard shared yesterday afternoon, even though they took England to the brink of a seventh consecutive Test victory and a place in the history books. It was the batting of this pair of tailenders which finally sucked the last drop of fight from the West Indies, and all but consigned Brian Lara's broken side to another humiliating defeat.
The sight of these two slogging, swiping and laughing their way to career best scores on the second morning of the fourth Test would have been too much for many former West Indian players to watch. It was the final insult to a side whose fast-bowlers used to terrorise proper batsmen, let alone rabbits like Harmison and Hoggard.
In the eight Tests these two sides have played against each other this year, the ball has been aimed at the other team's throat. In the Eighties and early Nineties West Indian batsman were noted for their ability to cope with fast bowling, but once again the limitations of this current crop - with the exception of Lara - were exposed by a hostile Harmison, who took six for 46 as the touring side were routed for 152 in their first innings. Having posted the imposing score of 470, this gave England a lead of 318 and the chance to enforce the follow on.
Chris Gayle came out the second time with his bat blazing and smashed Hoggard for six boundaries in an over, but this failed to prevent England making further in-roads. It was Harmison again who ripped through the West Indies top order. For the second time in a day Sylvester Joseph failed to cope with the bounce of the Durham paceman and the edge which flew to the wicketkeeper, Geraint Jones, gave him his hundredth Test wicket.
Ramnaresh Sarwan soon followed when he was brilliantly caught by Ian Bell diving in the gully. This gave Harmison the remarkable figures of eight for 60 in the day and left the West Indies on 84 for 2 still 234 behind England's first innings score.
It was the 149 runs that this pair, and Ashley Giles, who equalled his career best score of 52, added for the last three England wickets, which set the scene for another West Indies collapse, and it was fitting that Harmison should reap the rewards after lunch. He smashed Dwayne Bravo and Jermaine Lawson for three huge sixes during his unbeaten 36, loosening him up for an afternoon of mayhem with the ball.
Chris Gayle was the first to fail to cope with the steep bounce Harmison was extracting from this excellent pitch. The attacking left-hander attempted to paddle a short ball to fine-leg, but the extra bounce cramped his shot and he gloved a difficult catch to a diving Jones. Harmison struck again in his next over when Joseph spliced a simple catch to Giles in the gully.
This brought Lara to the crease and Vaughan immediately brought Andrew Flintoff into the attack. After dismissing Lara in three of his last four innings, the England captain obviously feels his all-rounder has the measure of the world's leading batsman, but on this occasion the tactic failed to come off.
Lara looked determined to begin with, but the sight of wickets tumbling at the other end turned his mood to anger. Sarwan edged to slip and five balls after the tea interval Shivnarine Chanderpaul was brilliantly caught when he pulled a sharp chance to Robert Key at short backward square leg.
Dwayne Bravo gave Lara some belated support, but he fell to an ambitious shot. The West Indian all-rounder is a talented cricketer, but he must have known the dangers of attempting to pull a 6ft 6in fast bowler off a length when he is pinging it down at 90mph. The resulting top edge gave Jones a simple catch.
With his tail up, Harmison looked as daunting a proposition as he did in Jamaica in March when he took 7 for 12. The ball was spitting off a good length and whizzing past the batsmen at shoulder height. In this situation it is impossible to judge when to play at the ball or leave it alone, and this indecision led to the demise of Carlton Baugh, who gave Andrew Strauss his second slip catch of the day when he edged a ball he was attempting to leave alone.
The absence of Dwayne Smith, who injured his ribs bowling, left Lara batting with the tail. Corey Collymore too edged a simple catch off Harmison to slip then Lara fell attempting to farm the strike, top-edging a catch to Bell at fine leg. For a moment it appeared as if the West Indies captain was about to declare his side's innings closed - so disoriented had he become by events that he could not work out how many wickets his side had lost.
He may as well have declared, the subsequent run out of Fidel Edwards summed up another disastrous day for West Indian cricket and another outstanding one for England.Reuse content