Harmison delivers as England live dangerously

West Indies 159 England 160 for 3 England win by 7 wickets
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In a desperate attempt to kick-start their NatWest series campaign England pressed the gamble button here yesterday.

In a desperate attempt to kick-start their NatWest Series campaign, England pressed the gamble button here yesterday.

Firstly, in an effort to add inspiration to their fragile batting line-up, they dragged Andrew Flintoff from his home in Cheshire to play against the West Indies ­ even though the Lancashire all-rounder is not allowed to bowl. And then with their talisman present they further tested their luck by fielding a team which contained only three specialist bowlers.

On days when the fickle wheel of fortune fails to turn your way such adventurous decision-making can look foolish but on this occasion it proved prophetic and England romped home to a seven-wicket victory. After bowling Brian Lara's side out for 159 England completed their first victory of the competition with 28 overs still to be bowled.

A swashbuckling 55 from 48 balls by Marcus Trescothick helped to make short work of the West Indies' insufficient total, and Andrew Strauss and Flintoff took over when the opener was unfortunately run out, a straight drive by Strauss being deflected on to the stumps by the bowler in his follow through.

Strauss took particular delight in smashing anything pitched short to the boundary and Flintoff played a couple of typically brutal strokes down the ground in his breezy innings of 21.

The presence of Flintoff at slip is always a reassuring sight, but he was not the one who sparked Michael Vaughan's lacklustre side belatedly into action. This honour went to Stephen Harmison, who once again changed England's fortunes. For the second game in a row the Durham paceman improved on his career-best figures, and his figures of 3 for 31 were fully deserved. James Anderson took three wickets but could not match his team-mate. "Harmison is outstanding," Vaughan said. "He is undoubtedly a world-class performer now in both forms of cricket. This win has got our competition back on track."

By gaining a bonus point ­ reaching the West Indies' total inside 40.1 overs ­ England move level on points with Lara's side and have a realistic chance of qualifying for the final. Unless the West Indies defeat New Zealand in one of their two remaining games against them, Tuesday's match at Lord's between these two sides could decide who joins the Kiwis in the final.

Harmison bowled superbly at Trent Bridge and Chester-le-Street but by then the matches were all but lost, a trend set by each side that has batted first in this competition. England's hopes were helped by Vaughan winning the toss and, opening up from the Football Stand End, the lanky fast bowler immediately found the right length and dismissed Shivnarine Chanderpaul with his fifth delivery. The edge flew towards Trescothick at first slip, but Geraint Jones dived in front of him to take a fine catch.

Dwayne Smith soon followed when he edged a good ball from Harmison through to the keeper, and this brace of wickets gave England the start they were looking for. But the match moved firmly their way when Vaughan brilliantly ran Chris Gayle out off the very next ball.

Gayle is a dangerous player and he was looking in top form until Ramnaresh Sarwan called his partner for a quick single. Before setting off, the pair hesitated slightly and gave Vaughan the chance to swoop, pick the ball up one-handed and hit the one stump he could see with Gayle two yards short of his crease.

One of the aims of the West Indies top order is to protect Sarwan and Lara, their two best players, but this pair found themselves together after eight overs.

No bowler needs reminding of the damage Lara can inflict, and Vaughan would have realised how important it was to get him out before he introduced his back-up bowlers, Trescothick and Anthony McGrath, into the attack. Against bowling of this quality Lara can cause mayhem and there was a huge sigh of relief from the England captain when he dragged a wide half-volley from Anderson on to his stumps. The Lancashire seamer has bowled indifferently during this tournament but the wicket of Lara gave him the confidence to run in hard and bowl aggressively. His eight-over spell still contained the odd juicy half-volley but it also produced the odd good delivery, one of which dismissed Dwayne Bravo.

When Ridley Jacobs edged Anderson on to his stumps the West Indies, on 72 for 6, were in danger of being bowled out for less than England on Tuesday.

But Sarwan and Ricardo Powell made the most of the less-than-testing fare being tossed down by McGrath and Trescothick. The tourists were making their way to a competitive total before Paul Collingwood took one of the best catches I have seen at backward point.

Sarwan cut a long hop from Trescothick hard towards the Durham man, who dived high and to his right to take a brilliant one-handed catch. Television replays timed his reaction time and the ball took 0.64sec to reach him. It broke the West Indies' resolve and allowed England quickly to wrap up the three remaining wickets.

* Rikki Clarke, the Surrey all-rounder, has been released from England's one-day squad for the remainder of the NatWest Series.

HEADINGLEY SCOREBOARD

England won the toss

WEST INDIES

C H Gayle run out (Vaughan) 23 32min, 29 balls, 5 fours

S Chanderpaul c Jones b Harmison 3 7min, 4 balls

D R Smith c Jones b Harmison 2 21min, 10 balls

R R Sarwan c Collingwood b Trescothick 46 106min, 78 balls, 4 fours

*B C Lara b Anderson 6 30min, 22 balls

D J J Bravo c Jones b Anderson 5 16min, 14 balls, 1 four

ÝR D Jacobs b Anderson 2 8min, 7 balls

R L Powell b Harmison 36 52min, 37 balls, 3 fours, 1 six

I D R Bradshaw c Jones b McGrath 12 29min, 24 balls, 1 four

R Rampaul c Anderson b Gough 10 26min, 16 balls, 1 four

J J C Lawson not out 0 2min, 1 ball

Extras (lb4, w9, nb1) 14

Total (169min, 40.1overs) 159

Fall: 1-9 (Chanderpaul); 2-29 (Smith); 3-29 (Gayle); 4-40 (Lara); 5-62 (Bravo); 6-72 (Jacobs); 7-135 (Sarwan); 8-137 (Powell); 9-159 (Bradshaw); 10-159 (Rampaul).

Bowling: Gough 8.1-2-23-1 (6-1-22-0, 2-1-1-0, 0.1-0-0-1); Harmison 10-2-31-3 (nb1, w2) (7-2-15-2, 3-0-16-1); Anderson 8-1-37-3 (one spell); McGrath 10-1-36-1 (w6) (7-1-23-0, 3-0-13-1); Trescothick 4-0-28-1 (w1) (3-0-21-1, 1-0-7-0).

Progress: 15 overs score: 40-4. 50: 72min, 98 balls. 100: 117min, 167 balls. 150: 161min, 230 balls.

England: M E Trescothick, *M P Vaughan , ÝG O Jones, A J Strauss, P D Collingwood, A McGrath, A Flintoff, R W T Key, D Gough, S J Harmison, J M Anderson.

Umpires: M R Benson and D J Harper (Aus).

TV replay umpire: J W Lloyds (Eng).

Match referee: G Viswanath (India).

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