Heavy mob fire the shots to seal England's sixth successive win

Third Test, final day
West Indies 395-9 dec & 165
England 330 & 231-3
England win by seven wickets

Robert Key and Andrew Flintoff both received heavy criticism about their weight and attitude when they first broke into the England team. Each enjoyed a pint, a pie and a good night out but this approach to international cricket failed to impress the England coach. Both were sent away and told to sharpen up their act.

Robert Key and Andrew Flintoff both received heavy criticism about their weight and attitude when they first broke into the England team. Each enjoyed a pint, a pie and a good night out but this approach to international cricket failed to impress the England coach. Both were sent away and told to sharpen up their act.

But Duncan Fletcher may well have been found partaking in these three vices with this pair in Manchester last night following England's seven-wicket victory over the West Indies. England still required 120 runs to win the third Test when the close friends came together. The England captain, Michael Vaughan, had just edged Chris Gayle's first ball to slip, and England were in danger of losing this match - so bringing an end to their remarkable run of success.

England knew that Graham Thorpe's fractured finger would limit his input and this put Flintoff and Key under extra pressure. But both players rose to the challenge, showing maturity and responsibility as they guided their side home.

Flintoff finished the match off in brutal fashion by smashing Ramnaresh Sarwan for two huge sixes but by then the game was won and it was the performance of Key which should be given the greatest credit.

The technique of the Kent opener has received a fair amount of criticism since he scored 221 against the West Indies at Lord's. In his next four innings he accumulated only 54 runs but this innings of 93 proved he has what it takes to make it at this level. Key held England's batting together after the home side had lost two early wickets only to be deprived of his second Test century by Flintoff's big hitting.

"I told Freddie [Flintoff] to get it over with," said Key, when asked whether they had discussed letting him reach three figures. "To win the game and to be there with Freddie at the end was a great feeling. This was a better innings than Lord's by a long way. The double hundred was a great feeling but the pitch there was flat and the bowlers were struggling to get the ball above head height. Here it was hard work and this was a better knock."

Key needed this innings for several reasons. Had he failed here he would have been under enormous pressure in the next Test, at the Oval on Thursday. England are fortunate to have six or seven quality batsmen competing for five places but this knock should have secured his selection for England's winter tour of South Africa.

Flintoff also deprived his mate of the honour of scoring the winning runs when he cut Gayle to third man for four. This stroke sealed England's third consecutive Test series win; it was also a fitting way to continue the side's remarkable run of success.

Through winning this match England have now equalled the record of Peter May's side, who won six consecutive Test matches against New Zealand and the West Indies between July 1957 and July 1958. This was not the only record England kept going. Through defeating Brian Lara's side here they also matched the run of Mike Brearley's England side, who won nine out of 10 games in 1978 and 1979.

And should Vaughan's side win Thursday's fourth Test at the Oval they will equal the best ever run by an England team, which took place between June 1928 and February 1929, when Percy Chapman guided his side to seven consecutive victories.

Though England's batting was almost exemplary - Andrew Strauss was out to a poor shot - they also benefited from a fair bit of good fortune. How Old Trafford avoided the storms which circled the ground for most of the afternoon was a mystery to the 14,000 spectators who attended. For three hours the distant skyline of Manchester disappeared - so heavy was the rain falling - and those people working in the offices there must have wondered how cricket was being played four miles away.

But this highlighted how cruel cricket can be. When things are going well for you everything seems to go your way and when they are not, as the West Indies are finding out, every mistake you make proves costly.

Brian Lara's side could rue the weather but they also made several mistakes themselves. The bowlers worked hard and made life difficult for England yesterday but their cricket has been too unpredictable throughout this series. On Sunday they were well-placed before Chris Gayle instigated a collapse by slogging one from Ashley Giles to be caught by Matthew Hoggard at long-off for 42. Their bowling has also lacked discipline on far too many occasions and they have also dropped too many catches.

In this Test, Ramnaresh Sarwan grassed Thorpe when he was on 58 in England's first innings and the 56 further runs he scored proved crucial. And the West Indies were at it again yesterday when Sylvester Joseph dropped Key at second slip when he was on 57 and England were on 152-3. This proved to be the final chance offered by England as they cantered to victory with 27.2 overs still remaining.

England wasted little time finishing off the West Indian second innings in the morning. Fidel Edwards swiped and missed at a couple of deliveries from Giles but there was nothing he could do with a Stephen Harmison bouncer which struck him on the glove and lobbed easily to Flintoff at second slip.

Requiring 231 to win, England made a dreadful start. In the sixth over, and with the score on 15, Marcus Trescothick appeared to play the perfect forward defensive shot but somehow the ball squeezed between bat and pad and knocked out his off stump.

Corey Collymore deserved this wicket in an excellent opening spell which saw him take one wicket in six overs for the cost of just four runs. Edwards bowled with pace but he was quickly taken out of the attack when Strauss hit him for two boundaries.

This bowling change brought immediate reward when Strauss weakly pulled a Pedro Collins short ball to Shivnarine Chanderpaul at mid-on. England were on 27-2 at the time, a score from which they would not have recovered in previous years.

And it could have been worse for England had a top-edged pull by Vaughan not evaded the outstretched arm of a diving Carlton Baugh. The England captain was on one at the time and had the West Indian wicket-keeper reached the catch the result of this Test match could well have gone the other way.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Proust as Captain Laure Berthaud in 'Spiral'
tvReview: Gritty, engaging and well-acted - it’s a wonder France’s biggest TV export isn’t broadcast on a more mainstream channel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Carmichael in still from Madam Bovary trailer
film
News
i100
Sport
Serena Williams holds the Australian Open title
sportAustralia Open 2015 final report
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing