England's summer takes flight with crushing win
England 377 & 32-0 West Indies 152 & 256
Saturday 09 May 2009
It took a little longer than expected but arrive it did with the inevitability of a Cabinet crisis. By the time this prodigious summer of cricket is done England's victory yesterday against West Indies may not mean much, but many of the protagonists should treasure it forever.
For the debutant Graham Onions it was largely a delightful experience (not quite entirely, since he had discovered that it is not always an easy game). For Ravi Bopara and Graeme Swann, playing their first home Tests, it was a significant triumph.
Perhaps above all, for the new officially branded management team of the captain, Andrew Strauss and the team director, Andy Flower, it was exactly the start they must have craved. They now have something to build on with this England team.
At 6.03pm with 20.5 overs of the third day remaining, England won the first Test by 10 wickets. It was their first victory at Lord's for four years and the first time they had won the opening Test anywhere for 15 series. West Indies may have played perfunctorily for much of the time proceedings but this, it should not be forgotten, were the same team who had resisted England so determinedly in the Caribbean only weeks ago.
To retain the Wisden Trophy the tourists must now win in Chester-le-Street next week and little they did at Lord's suggested that this is a viable proposition. There was some prolonged if belated resistance in the afternoon yesterday but when wickets fell they did so in a clatter. Before lunch three fell for nine runs in 12 balls, after tea another three fell for six runs in 19 balls.
West Indies batted for a total of 105 overs in this match whereas in Antigua in February they defied England for 128 overs in their second innings alone. If the circumstances were different then this a pretty poor effort. So much for their captain, Chris Gayle, staying as long as he possibly could in the Indian Premier League, arriving only 48 hours before the npower series was due to start. So much for the primacy of Test cricket.
England deserved this victory and the only mild surprise was that they had to bat twice to achieve it. This was caused exclusively by a sixth-wicket stand of 143 between Brendan Nash and Denesh Ramdin, who had been two particularly prickly thorns in England's backside during the Caribbean tour. They played sensibly, they played the conditions and latterly they had a bit of fun. It was the only three-figure partnership in the match which seems to suggest that the Lord's surface was not completely benign.
Until then everything had gone England's way and after it everything went England's way. In one respect, their selection for the match could be held to be faulty since Tim Bresnan, as the fourth seamer, bowled only eight overs in total but it remains a wise policy to have five bowlers at the captain's disposal. There will be teams ahead with more inclination to hang around.
Swann was man of the match for his six wickets and unbeaten 63, edging out Bopara for his maiden century. It might have been a close run thing but simply for dismissing Shiv Chanderpaul twice in the match for 0 and four, Swann deserved the bubbly. Chanderpaul is the world's No 1 ranked batsman and Swann deceived him.
When he did so for the second time in the morning, Chanderpaul being caught off bat and pad close in, West Indies were 75 for four and the game was up. Shortly before Lendl Simmons had clipped Onions carelessly to backward square leg where Alastair Cook took the catch tumbling forward. Shortly after, Devon Smith, having once more done the hard work, had his middle stump removed by a vicious late in-swinger from Onions.
That seemed to be that. But throughout the afternoon and with the sun shining Nash and Ramdin showed admirable resistance. Ramdin scored pretty freely both sides of the wicket, Nash was more ebullient than in the Caribbean and was particularly alert on the cut. It may have done Onions good that his final spell of eight overs yielded 40 runs. He bowled too short and lacked his previous vigour but his was a memorable debut.
On the stroke of tea, the returning Stuart Broad brought one back in to undo the flat-footed Ramdin and the rest was utterly predictable. Swann had Jerome Taylor leg before smearing across the line soon after the innings defeat was avoided and bowled Sulieman Benn. Nash was the last wicket to fall for 81, flailing away. He deserved a hundred.
Needing 32 runs to win, England gathered them at leisure and Strauss struck the winning runs with a square driven four. There could hardly have been a more proficient way to start the season for captain and coach.
England had gone five matches without a Test match victory of any kind and 11 without one where the series was still alive. To have broken the sequence with a win in the first match of a series was also important as was winning again at Lord's.
There is much to be done but in Swann particularly they may have found a combative spinning all-rounder. Australia will not roll over as West Indies did but he is the leading Test wicket-taker this year with 25, ahead of luminaries such as Mitchell Johnson and Dale Steyn. If he still has that position in December something wonderful may have happened for England.
Bresnan may not have contributed much here but he will have another bash next week. He took the one catch to come his way with some alacrity and bowled tidily enough – at 90mph on occasion, it was being suggested by the television computer. If he could really bowl at 90mph he would not have waited so long for his opportunity. Still, if Australia can be persuaded to believe it later in the summer anything is possible.
Moment of the day
A crunching square drive by Andrew Strauss gave England their first Test victory at Lord's since 2005 and ended a run of six draws. The captain will now expect his team to regain the Wisden Trophy in Durham next week.
Statistic of the day
Tim Bresnan bowling at 89mph and occasionally above 90 – according to the Sky TV speed gun. Impressive for someone described as medium fast. Makes you wonder what Brett Lee might manage later this summer.
Ball of the day
Graham Onions' late inswinger which did for Devon Smith's middle stump. Onions found life a little more complicated yesterday but this was another moment to savour for the new boy.
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