For 80 minutes it appeared as though the West Indies were capable of producing something special here yesterday and denying England their seventh victory in eight Test matches. But then Ashley Giles, England's much derided spinner, produced a gem of a delivery.
For 80 minutes it appeared as though the West Indies were capable of producing something special here yesterday and denying England their seventh victory in eight Test matches. Brian Lara was on 44 and looking in top form, Shivnarine Chanderpaul was at his obdurate best and the scoreboard had moved on to 172 for 3 in the first Test. England had no reason to panic but this pair was beginning to make a nuisance of themselves.
But then Ashley Giles, England's much derided spinner, produced a gem of a delivery. Lara has scored brilliant centuries against the greatest spin bowlers the game has seen - deities such as Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan - yet on this occasion he was deceived by a well flighted delivery from a mere mortal.
Lara has never been afraid of coming down the pitch to slow bowlers and when he left his crease he did so expecting to hit the ball through extra cover. Giles, though, had other ideas. The ball pitched in one of the foot-holes created by the fast bowlers at the Pavilion End, kept low and turned sharply through the gap between Lara's bat and pad. It flattened his middle stump.
Giles had every right to celebrate in spectacular fashion. With a single delivery the 31-year-old had taken England one huge stride closer to another comprehensive victory: he had also become the 38th Englishman to take 100 Test wickets. Giles claimed three further victims before Andrew Flintoff replaced him at the Nursery End and wrapped up the first Test with the West Indies 210 runs short of their target and 46.3 overs still to be bowled.
This victory took Michael Vaughan's team into a 1-0 lead in this four-Test series and extends a wonderful run of results, the best by England since Mike Brearley's side won nine out of 10 Tests against New Zealand, Australia and India in 1978-79.
Flintoff's strike deprived Giles of the chance of his first 10-wicket haul in Test cricket, yet walking off, with match figures of 9 for 210, he still had plenty to be proud of.
A flat, hard pitch has meant that Lord's is no longer a good hunting ground for the slow men and Giles' five-wicket haul was the first by an English spinner at this ground for 13 years. To find a better match analysis by a member of this gang one has to go back to 1974 when Derek Underwood claimed 13 for 71 against Pakistan.
"To get Lara out at any stage of your career is fantastic," said an elated Giles sipping a well deserved glass of champagne. "But to get him out with a ball like that is even better. And for it to be your 100th Test wicket just about wraps it up."
The transformation of Giles from bit-part player on England's tour of the Caribbean into a match-winner has been extraordinary. Giles openly admits to being no Muralitharan, but there were times earlier this year when the criticism aimed at him by the media and crowd made him consider throwing it all away. This came to a head when Sky Sports broadcast an e-mail sent in by a viewer which asked the question "What is the point of Ashley Giles?"
Giles' renaissance started in the final Test of the New Zealand series when he took six wickets and scored 81 unbeaten runs. "A lot has been said about my confidence in the last couple of months," he said. "But my mechanics here have felt good, the wicket offered some turn and they have a lot of left-handers. This helped, as did their decision to stick us in."
The wickets Giles has taken in the last two Tests have changed spectators' attitudes towards him and the boos that used to greet his arrival at the boundary have been replaced by standing ovations. "When you do well it is easy," admitted Giles.
Once Lara had gone it became only a matter of time before England finished a good week's work. And in the 30 minutes before the lunch interval Michael Vaughan's team claimed two further wickets.
Dwayne Bravo attempted to play his natural game until he chipped a soft catch back to Giles and Ridley Jacobs gave Matthew Hoggard his second wicket of the innings when he edged a simple chance to Graham Thorpe at third slip.
Omari Banks lost his off stump to Stephen Harmison soon after the break and Tino Best was stumped having a wild slog at Giles. Chanderpaul was on 43 at the time and looking for somebody to give him support.
This came from Pedro Collins who batted for 56 minutes with the Guyanese left-hander. Chanderpaul took this as an opportunity to play a few more shots and punished anything loose. But, on 79, he lost Collins, stumped when the Bajan dragged his back foot out of the crease looking for an expansive drive.Jones removed the bails and television replays showed his foot resting on, rather than behind, the line which belongs to the wicketkeeper.
Chanderpaul kept timing the ball sweetly and had moved to within three runs of becoming the fourth batsman to score a century in each innings of a Test here when Flintoff struck.
"This was a really hard-fought victory," Vaughan said. "It was set up by the batting in the first innings but... credit must go to the bowlers for going out there and taking 20 wickets."
Lara disagreed with the view that he was wrong to allow England first use of this pitch even though West Indies were out of this game after the first day. "I do not regret bowling first," he said. "If we had bowled like that on the second and third day we would have been punished as well. There was nothing wrong with the decision, but our bowling and fielding on the first day cost us. For the remaining three and a half days we played good cricket... I am quietly confident that we can move forward positively."