At last, a series that was close to being drowned came bursting back to life on dry land yesterday. Before a full house, under a hot sun, in one of the most beautiful cricket grounds, with a blaze of buccaneering sixes West Indies beat England by five wickets with two overs left.
It was a fearless victory that looked improbable for long enough and demonstrated emphatically what England's captain Michael Vaughan has cautiously stated throughout the winter, that West Indies are a team with talent, and are just waiting to harness it. They also showed that they can cross the wire without Brian Lara dragging them there kicking and screaming.
The most serious damage was inflicted at the right time in the most bravura fashion by the 20-year-old Dwayne Smith. On his Test debut in the winter he treated the likes of Shaun Pollock with disdain in scoring a century and yesterday he was equally dismissive in meting out the treatment to the English fast bowling hero, Stephen Harmison. His 44 came from 28 balls with four sixes. It was a cameo, but it was a breathtaking one.
The match was effectively finished off by Ramnaresh Sarwan, more experienced, barely less flamboyant. He scored 73 from 77 balls. They made light of it at the last, yet England had managed to stay favourites for most of the proceedings, just as West Indies had in the only other match played in the series in Guyana a fortnight ago.
When Lara was dismissed by Harmison, West Indies were 191 for 4 with 12 overs left and six wickets left. If it was not a mountain to climb, it was not a cakewalk either. But Smith stood tall and hit whatever came his way.
England's challenge was built on a return to former territory for Marcus Trescothick, who scored a blistering 130 from 136 balls. At the start of his career, England kept losing when he scored a century. The total of 281 for 8 which his innings ensured England attained might have been more had he stayed in, but was still more than handy.
Trescothick's record on tour is much inferior to that at home in both forms of the game. The figures, always ready to damn and to praise, tell their own story; that he is a player for whom home is where the runs are, never mind the heart (averages of 32 and 54 in Tests, 30 and 49 in one-dayers).
For the past fortnight, Trescothick must have known what it is to be a caged bear. He has been skulking about, always genial enough but aware that the open spaces of the prairie were missing. So, it would not have mattered too much yesterday whether the open spaces he was playing in at last were in Keynsham or Timbuktu, but the beautiful Beausejour ground did him very nicely indeed.
He emerged on a bright morning, knowing that whatever happened, home sweet home was only days away. The upshot was that he made, or cudgelled more like, his seventh one-day century. With Andrew Flintoff, he put on a scintillating century stand for the fourth wicket.
West Indies started their reply rampantly, but were twice stopped dead in their tracks. Paul Collingwood took a stunning catch to dismiss Chris Gayle, diving to his left at point, both feet off the ground and flying to the ball. He had caught Gayle there in Guyana and this time the batsman hit it harder and placed it wider. Tough luck, same outcome.
Chris Read also took a smart catch, running after a top-edged Shivnarine Chanderpaul cut. There is a certain irony in the fact that these are the sorts of chances England must take to win the tight matches, but here they ended up as spectacular sideshows.
Trescothick's was the highest individual innings on the ground as England's was the highest team total, but then this was only the fourth one-day match to be played here.
Despite its rawness, this was a game still being seen as an early audition for the 2007 World Cup final. The arena is in a resplendent setting and boasts the Caribbean's best amenities.
This one-day series has been ravaged by rain, which has followed England around the West Indies. The upshot is that a ridiculously bloated seven-match series has become a cosy, if still frenetic four. St Lucia is at the front of the shop window.
The sunshine has helped, but it is difficult to imagine anything much closer to a cricketing paradise. When the cricket is of the kind seen last night, it saves a series.
St Lucia scoreboard
West Indies won toss
M E Trescothick run out (Chanderpaul) 130
M P Vaughan c Jacobs b Bradshaw 25
A J Strauss b Dillon 10
P D Collingwood c Jacobs b Rampaul 4
A Flintoff c Dillon b Bravo 59
I D Blackwell b Bravo 0
C M W Read c Powell b Bradshaw 24
R Clarke b Gayle 6
D Gough not out 3
S J Harmison 3
Extras (lb6, w6, nb5) 17
Total (for 8 wkts, 50 overs) 281
Fall: 1-43 (Vaughan), 2-114 (Strauss), 3-124 (Collingwood), 4-234 (Flintoff), 5-235 (Blackwell), 6-249 (Trescothick), 7-267 (Clarke), 8-275 (Read).
Did not bat: J M Anderson.
Bowling: Bradshaw 10-0-58-1 (1w); Dillon 10-0-47-1 (1nb); Bravo 8-0-57-2 (3w); Rampaul 9-0-48-1 (4nb); Gayle 9-0-33-1 (2w); Powell 4-0-32-0.
Trescothick 100: 137 min, 96 balls, 12 fours, 2 sixes.
C H Gayle c Collingwood b Anderson 36
S Chanderpaul c Read b Blackwell 40
R L Powell b Anderson 29
R R Sarwan not out 73
B C Lara c Read b Harmison 37
D R Smith b Flintoff 44
D J J Bravo not out 12
Extras (lb2, w10, nb1) 13
Total (for 5 wkts, 48 overs) 284
Fall: 1-62 (Gayle), 2-102 (Powell), 3-115 (Chanderpaul), 4-191 (Lara), 5-271 (Smith)
Did not bat: R D Jacobs, I D R Bradshaw, M Dillon, R Rampaul.
Bowling: Gough 9-1-45-0 (1w); Harmison 10-1-74-1 (4w); Flintoff 9-0-32-0 (1w); Anderson 10-0-66-2 (1nb, 1w); Blackwell 7-0-47-1 (1w); Trescothick 3-0-18-0 (1w).
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pak) and B Doctrove (WI).
TV umpire: E A Nicholls. Match referee: J J Crowe (NZ).
Result: West Indies win by five wicketsReuse content