Flintoff hits century to bring relief for England

West Indies 751-5 dec England 285 and 145-0
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Andrew Flintoff's third Test century helped put a smile back on the face of his England team-mates after three days of cricket they would rather, but never will, forget. The Lancashire all-rounder's 209-ball hundred, which contained 13 boundaries and a six, also allowed the thousands of England fans to stand and applaud one of their own for the first time in this match.

Andrew Flintoff's third Test century helped put a smile back on the face of his England team-mates after three days of cricket they would rather, but never will, forget. The Lancashire all-rounder's 209-ball hundred, which contained 13 boundaries and a six, also allowed the thousands of England fans to stand and applaud one of their own for the first time in this match.

After spending four weeks creating their own piece of history Michael Vaughan's side were, for a brief time, in danger of entering the record books for the wrong reason. Following Brian Lara's unbeaten 400, England needed to score more than 420 runs in this game to avoid the embarrassment of falling to their heaviest defeat ever.

There was, however, an outside possibility of this taking place after England were dismissed for 285 in the first innings. Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick went a considerable way towards preventing their side from finishing this tour on such a low with their first significant partnership of this tour. Both were still at the crease at the close with half-centuries to their name as England progressed to 145 for no wicket.

The tourists still have plenty of hard work ahead of them today before this match is saved but England should finish the Test part of this tour unbeaten. This is still an excellent pitch to bat on and the West Indies bowlers are tiring quickly.

England's plight would have been worse had the West Indies held on to one of the three chances given by Flintoff. He was dropped by Lara on 27 on Monday evening, and survived further escapes off the bowling of Pedro Collins on 56 and 67. The chances to Ricardo Powell, at second gully, and the bowler himself were difficult but both should have been taken.

Before his third escape, he batted in uncharacteristic style. The burly 26-year-old is known for his thunderous stroke-play but his ponderous batting summed up the position England found themselves in. His straight bat and responsible approach helped the cause of his team but this was not the Flintoff the crowd had come to see.

The dismissal of Matthew Hoggard and the arrival of the second new ball, which made Lara set more attacking fields, encouraged Flintoff to open his shoulders and give the ball a fearful thump. Fidel Edwards was the first to feel the power and was struck for 16 in his first over with the new cherry. A top-edged pull for six was followed by a cut for four, a drive for two and a forearm smash over deep midwicket for four to take Flintoff to 92.

Corey Collymore was driven through mid-on for four, and Flintoff completed his hundred when he clipped the same bowler through square-leg for two.

The West Indies bowled with far greater skill than England but the strokes of Trescothick, Mark Butcher, Graham Thorpe, Geraint Jones and Gareth Batty played a significant role in their downfall in the first innings. When a side faces a total as big as that posted by the hosts, batsmen still have to play their natural game but each of the five were guilty of overattacking.

Jones was the first to go in the second over of the day when he attempted to shovel a straight ball from Edwards through midwicket and lost his middle stump. On Monday evening the Kent wicketkeeper had batted in a composed and organised manner and before this aberration had justified his selection ahead of Chris Read.

Batty attempted to give Flintoff support and looked solid before he drove loosely at Pedro Collins and was caught behind. Collins has made quite an impression in the three Tests he has played in the series. The left-arm swing bowler came into the team as a replacement for Edwards when he picked up an injury in Jamaica but he now looks set to be a permanent member of Lara's side.

The 28-year-old is not particularly tall or quick but he is a canny bowler who can swing both the new and the old ball. Yesterday it was his ability to reverse-swing the old ball which brought him success. Coming round the wicket Collins angled the ball into the right-handers before swinging it away to the slips. This proved too good for both Batty and Hoggard.

When Simon Jones arrived at the crease, Flintoff still required 32 runs for his hundred. The Glamorgan fast bowler rode his luck but stuck around until Flintoff reached three figures.

Jones was forced to retire hurt after Tino Best struck him on the arm but he returned after Stephen Harmison had been bowled by Best. Jones failed to add to his score before he was out to the spin of Ryan Hinds with England still 466 behind.

ST JOHN'S SCOREBOARD

FOURTH TEST

WEST INDIES V ENGLAND

ANTIGUA (Fourth day of five): England, with all their second-innings wickets remaining, need 388 runs to avoid an innings defeat by West Indies.

West Indies won toss

WEST INDIES -- First Innings 751-5 dec (B C Lara 400no, R D Jacobs 107no, R R Sarwan 90, C H Gayle 69)

ENGLAND -- First Innings Overnight 171-5 (M A Butcher 52)

Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
A Flintoff not out 102 1 13 224 324
G O Jones b Edwards 38 0 5 88 117
G J Batty c Gayle b Collins 8 0 2 33 51
M J Hoggard c Jacobs b Collins 1 0 0 33 48
S P Jones lbw b Hinds 11 0 0 50 91
S J Harmison b Best 5 0 1 4 8

Extras (b1 lb5 w4 nb22) 32
Total (99 overs) 285

Fall: 1-8, 2-45, 3-54, 4-98, 5-98, 6-182, 7-205, 8-229, 9-283.

Bowling: P T Collins 26-4-76-4, F H Edwards 18-3-70-2, C D Collymore 19-5-45-0, T L Best 10.3-3-37-3, R O Hinds 17.3-7-29-1, R R Sarwan 7-0-18-0, C H Gayle 1-0-4-0.

ENGLAND -- Second Innings

Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
M E Trescothick not out 74 0 8 158 196
M P Vaughan not out 61 0 6 137 196

Extras (1lb, 2w, 7nb) 10
Total (for 0, 48 overs) 145

To Bat: M A Butcher, N Hussain, G P Thorpe, A Flintoff, G O Jones, G J Batty, M J Hoggard, S P Jones, S J Harmison.

Bowling: T L Best 8-1-20-0, F H Edwards 8-1-29-0, C D Collymore 8-2-22-0, R L Powell 3-0-17-0, R O Hinds 13-1-37-0, Chris Gayle 7-1-19-0, Ramnaresh Sarwan 1-1-0-0.

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and D B Hair (Aus).

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