Flintoff's high five puts England on top

West Indies 224England 20-1
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The Independent Online

Andrew Flintoff could not have picked a better venue to claim his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket. The Kensington Oval is littered with the names of great fast bowlers. Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith have a stand named after them and Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner each have an End to represent their achievements in the game.

Andrew Flintoff could not have picked a better venue to claim his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket. The Kensington Oval is littered with the names of great fast bowlers. Wes Hall and Charlie Griffith have a stand named after them and Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner each have an End to represent their achievements in the game.

There is a long list of others who have performed memorable feats at this wonderful ground and they will now be joined by the Lancashire all-rounder. It is not just Flintoff, whose final figures of 5 for 58 helped England dismiss the West Indies for 224, who will remember this as a special day. The 10,000 travelling England fans also lapped it up and showed their appreciation by giving him a standing ovation as he led his side off the ground.

The early loss of Marcus Trescothick quietened things down before the close but the bars of Bridgetown will reap the benefits of Flintoff's toil even if Brian Lara's side do not.

Flintoff has had to wait some time for a moment like this. The 26-year-old has pounded away for over after over in an England shirt since his Test debut in 1998. Success has come with the bat but his industry with the ball has, until now, passed unrewarded. Indeed, this is the first occasion when he has walked away with what he deserved.

Flintoff was not alone in tormenting the West Indies. Stephen Harmison, Matthew Hoggard and Simon Jones were wayward at times but each caused problems for a shell-shocked batting line-up which once again failed to come to terms with England's aggressive attack.

As well as blowing away the tail, Flintoff also claimed two prize scalps, with Lara, the West Indies captain, being the first of his victims. Lara was beginning to look ominous when Flintoff outfoxed him. The left-hander had just pulled the burly seamer for a four when, instead of banging in another short delivery, Flintoff pitched it up. All Lara could do was poke a simple catch to Mark Butcher in the gully.

Lara could not consider himself unlucky ­ even though Butcher later dropped two catches ­ but his openers could. Both Chris Gayle and Daren Ganga were on the wrong end of poor umpiring decisions from Rudi Koertzen and Darrell Hair.

For a while it looked as though the West Indies batsmen were going to give their side a chance of getting themselves back in this series. Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul had added 79 runs for the fourth wicket and the West Indies looked comfortable on 167 for 3.

But then Harmison struck. The Durham paceman was disappointing in the morning session but in the afternoon he rediscovered the rhythm which has made him the star of this tour. Firstly he lured Sarwan into driving at an away-swinger, which flew to Flintoff at second slip, and then he forced Ryan Hinds to flick a simple catch to Simon Jones at fine-leg.

This brace of wickets, and the fortunate scalp off Ganga, took his tally on this tour to 19. The sun eventually caught up with Harmison and Flintoff, his best mate, replaced him.

It was in the third over of his spell that fortune began to turn Flintoff's way. Ridley Jacobs went first when he failed to deal with a well aimed short ball which lobbed to cover off the handle of his bat. Tino Best was then dropped two balls later by Butcher at slip and a run was taken. This put Chanderpaul on strike. Butcher had also dropped Chanderpaul off Flintoff's bowling when he was on 10 but the big man eventually gained revenge. With 50 to his name the left-hander pushed forward and edged a simple catch to Graham Thorpe at second slip.

With the last recognised West Indies batsman gone, Vaughan brought Jones back into the attack and the fast bowler struck immediately.

But Flintoff wasn't finished. He wanted his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket. And he got it when Best and Fidel Edwards edged catches to the slip cordon off consecutive balls.

Flintoff proudly led his side from the field and the West Indies had lost their last seven wickets for 57 runs in just 18 overs.

Gayle was the first to see the umpire wrongly give him out when a Hoggard in-swinger rapped the left-hander on the pad. Television replays showed that it would comfortably have missed leg stump.

Koertzen's mistake gave England the perfect start and helped justify Vaughan's decision to bowl first. England were unsure what to do before the toss. The pitch was dry but had a tinge of green to it. The batters wanted to bowl ­ as they always do ­ and the bowlers wanted to bat ­ as they always do.

But from this nonsense a captain has to make a decision and England's was influenced by the fragile mental state of the West Indies batsmen more than the pitch. By bowling first Vaughan was looking to keep open the wounds from the first two Tests.

In Trinidad Lara had been widely criticised for slipping down the order but on this occasion the fall of the West Indies' first wicket brought him to centre stage.

The change made sense ­ Sarwan scored 34 runs in the first two Tests at three and was having a miserable time.

Ganga, a replacement for the injured Devon Smith, was dropped at third slip by Thorpe on eight but the umpire Darrell Hair failed to make it a costly mistake.

The right-hander's ability to leave the ball was becoming a feature of his innings before he padded up to a fullish ball from Harmison. As with Gayle it flicked him above the knee roll and would have comfortably missed the stumps. At the end of the over Hair was booed by the West Indian supporters in the ground who had seen the incident on a television replay.

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