Doubtless if the West Indies hang grimly on to win this series there will be dancing in the streets. While they are about it, the revellers might as well jig up and down on the coffin containing Test cricket.
There is still slender reason to suppose that England can win the fifth Test match and level matters at 1-1 but it is disappearing fast. Throughout the third day they chipped agonisingly away at the West Indies' batting, but it never looked anywhere near enough to bring the whole edifice tumbling down.
West Indies came into this match with one objective, to avoid defeat and therefore protect the lead they took a month ago in Kingston. It was reflected in the pitch that was prepared, in the batsman-heavy side that was selected and in their wholly negative approach to the game.
So it continued yesterday. West Indies set out merely to bat. Although Chris Gayle scored his second century of the series, the 14th in all during the five matches, the hosts were almost totally bereft of ambition. When Gayle was forced to retire hurt, having damaged a hamstring running the single which brought him the century, England might have sensed a breakthrough. But their old tormentor Shiv Chanderpaul, batted for 152 balls in an unbeaten 52, the 73rd time in Tests he had passed a half-century. Brendan Nash, whose style, though not as ungainly, is clearly modelled on the old master's was only slightly quicker in registering his half-century.
By the time they day was done, England had taken only three more wickets in the day and the West Indies had added 257 runs, usually against attacking fields with men round the bat. Chanderpaul and Nash had added 146 runs for the fifth wicket in almost 52 overs. They were going nowhere, and they were refusing to do it quickly.
England demonstrated plenty of application and two of their scores of appeals might have been upheld (had they not wasted their two permitted referrals the previous evening they still might have been upheld) but yet again too few balls passed the bat. Amjad Khan managed to whistle a couple through Chanderpaul and Andrew Strauss crucially put down Nash at silly point on 19.
There have been many noble and laudable rearguard actions in Test cricket which have made for compelling draws. The third Test in Antigua, where the home side managed to hang on with one wicket left, was a perfect example. But this has been far from that. They have simply been afraid of losing, had no intention of trying to win and the game has suffered irreparably as a spectacle, unless from nowhere England find a cutting edge.
Perhaps, the West Indies should not be begrudged. It has been so long since they won an authentic Test series – 1-0 but in only two matches against Sri Lanka six years ago, 2-1 against India the year before that – that they will do anything legitimate to win.
It was always going to be a long, tough, hot day for the tourists. The pitch was not about to grant their bowlers any favours – a bit of rough here, a spot of slow turn there was as helpful as it got.
The wickets were evenly distributed. Stuart Broad took the first, that of the nightwatchman Daren Powell, Khan the second, his first in Test cricket when he had Ramnaresh Sarwan leg before and Monty Panesar the third, being rightly awarded the verdict against Lendl Simmons despite the batsman's decision to ask for a review.
Khan's action excited some attention throughout the day, partly because it looked jerky, partly because there was nothing else to do. At 28, he has a played a lot of cricket to have come this far without somebody spotting something awry and television slow motion appeared to conclude that appearances can be deceptive.
His bowling in the morning was much better than his maiden spell the previous night. There were still daft oddities, slower balls pulled down the leg side and no fewer than 11 no balls. Matt Prior has conceded 30 byes in the innings so far, giving him two places in that particular England top 10. He was not always culpable but too often he was. There were 61 extras in all, approaching England's 2003 record of 64.
England began well with Broad removing Powell in the third over. In came the man of the series, Sarwan, and he immediately looked in ominous form, three through the covers from his first ball taking him past 600 runs for the series. But Sarwan had made only 12 when he drove at Panesar and edged to Paul Collingwood at slip. Horror of horrors for England, Collingwood spilt the chance.
The strange object which joined the ball on the ground at that moment was the self-belief which had just drained from England. How many might the reprieved Sarwan now add? Two to be precise. He was beaten by Khan's fourth ball and was so palpably leg before that he did not ask for a review.
When Gayle hobbled off and Lendl Simmons was leg before – the 16th verdict in England's favour this series – there was an opening. Chanderpaul, in his element, and Nash, also in his, closed it.
Queen's Park Oval Scoreboard
Second and third days; Score at tea; England won toss
England – First Innings
(Friday: 258 for 2)
*A J Strauss b Edwards 142
368 min, 271 balls, 11 fours
A N Cook c Ramdin b Powell 12
35 min, 24 balls, 1 four
O A Shah run out (sub D J Bravo TV replay) 33
169 min, 118 balls, 5 fours
K P Pietersen b Hinds 10
34 min, 26 balls, 2 fours
P D Collingwood lbw b Baker (referral) 161
340 min, 288 balls, 12 fours
†M J Prior not out 131
257 min, 198 balls, 12 fours
S C J Broad c Simmons b Baker 19
44 min, 28 balls, 1 four
G P Swann not out 11
10 min, 11 balls, 1 four
Extras (b8 lb7 w1 nb11) 27
Total (for 6 dec, 632 min, 158.5 overs) 546
Fall: 1-26 (Cook) 2-156 (Pietersen) 3-263 (Strauss) 4-268 (Shah) 5-486 (Collingwood) 6-530 (Broad).
Did not bat: J M Anderson, Amjad Khan, M S Panesar.
Bowling: Edwards 24-5-63-1 (nb5 w1) (5-1-8-0, 5-1-7-0, 11-3-34-1, 3-0-14-0); Powell 16-1-79-1 (nb1) (9-1-38-1, 2-0-13-0, 5-0-28-0); Baker 23-4-77-2 (nb1) (7-2-16-0, 5-0-14-0, 5-1-20-0, 6-1-27-2); Nash 23-3-77-0 (4-2-8-0, 12-1-39-0, 7-0-30-0); Gayle 26-1-80-0 (nb1) (2-0-3-0, 3-0-14-0, 1-0-4-0, 11-0-31-0, 9-1-28-0); Hinds 39.5-2-126-1 (nb3) (1-1-0-0, 19-1-49-1, 18-0-65-0, 1.5-0-12-0); Smith 1-0-3-0, Simmons 6-0-26-0 (one spell each).
Progress: Second day: new ball taken immediately. Shah returned at the fall of Strauss at 263-3 after 92.5 overs. 300: 408 min, 101.1 overs. 350: 459 min, 111.4 overs. Lunch: 372-4 (Collingwood 101, Prior 57) 117 overs. 400: in 501 min, 127.2 overs. 450: 543 min, 139.3 overs. Tea: 490-5 (Prior 108, Broad 2) 150 overs. 500: 601 min, 151.3 overs. Declaration at 3.41pm.
Strauss's 50: 160 min, 118 balls, 5 fours. 100: 262 min, 186 balls, 10 fours. Collingwood's 50: 102 min, 108 balls, 4 fours. 100: 236 min, 206 balls, 8 fours. 150: 310 min, 271 balls, 11 fours. Prior's 50: 84 min, 52 balls, 8 fours. 100: 181 min, 156 balls, 10 fours.
West Indies – First Innings
(Overnight: 92 for 1)
*C H Gayle ret hurt 100
228 min, 161 balls, 10 fours, 2 sixes
D S Smith b Panesar 28
78 min, 49 balls, 3 fours
D B Powell c Pietersen b Broad 0
20 min, 14 balls
R R Sarwan lbw b Amjad Khan 14
38 min, 32 balls, 1 four
L M P Simmons lbw b Panesar (referral) 24
111 min, 79 balls, 2 fours
S Chanderpaul not out 11
95 min, 64 balls, 1 four
B P Nash not out 25
73 min, 60 balls, 4 fours
Extras (b26 lb5 w5 nb13) 49
Total (for 4, 324 min, 75 overs) 251
Fall: 1-90 (Smith) 2-96 (Powell) 3-118 (Sarwan) 4-203 (Simmons).
To bat: R O Hinds, †D Ramdin, F H Edwards, L S Baker.
Bowling: Anderson 12-0-36-0 (4-0-13-0, 4-0-10-0, 4-0-13-0); Broad 15-6-33-1 (5-0-19-0, 6-5-3-0, 4-1-11-0); Amjad Khan 12-0-53-1 (nb13) (4-0-27-0, 4-0-12-1, 4-0-14-0); Swann 16-5-48-0 (7-1-31-0, 4-0-16-0, 3-2-1-0, 2-2-0-0); Panesar 20-2-50-2 (2-0-6-1, 10-1-28-0, 5-1-10-1, 3-0-6-0).
Progress: Second day: 50: 54 min, 11.3 overs. Close: 92-1 (Gayle 49, Powell 0) 19 overs. Third day: 100: 104 min, 23.2 overs. 150: 174 min, 40.2 overs. Lunch: 176-3 (Gayle 87, Simmons 16) 48 overs. Gayle retired hurt 100* at 195-3 after 52.5 overs. 200: 245 min, 56.3 overs. 250: 320 min, 73.3 overs.
Gayle's 50: 94 min, 76 balls, 6 fours, 2 sixes. 100: 225 min, 161 balls, 10 fours, 2 sixes.
Umpires: D J Harper (Aus) and R B Tiffin (Zim).
TV replay umpire: Aleem Dar. Match referee: A G Hurst.
Ball of the day
*The fourth ball of Amjad Khan's first over beat Ramnaresh Sarwan's defensive stroke and hit him on the pads bang in front. It was the first time the batsman had not passed fifty in the series and it was Khan's first Test wicket, one to remember forever.
Shot of the day
*Ramnaresh Sarwan had just come in, but there was no chance of him dropping anchor. Given a short ball to get off the mark he then struck a lovely four through mid-wicket to a ball marginally overpitched on off stump. It was the stroke of a man in the form of his life.
Moment of the day
*In racing for the single that would bring his 10th Test hundred, Chris Gayle pulled up with a hamstring injury and flopped to the ground in pain, limping off with assistance minutes later. It was the only time in the series that the coolest man in the world let his cool guard drop.