It was only the tiniest taste of what can be expected a couple of months down the line. But, having had life far too easy during this mismatch of a series, England were at least made to work for most of their successes yesterday on the green and pleasant ground below Lumley Castle.
The West Indies have caved in, rather than dug in, on most occasions at Lord's and the Riverside, leaving home supporters to wonder just how Andrew Strauss's team lost in the Caribbean. Of course, circumstances were very different over there, with vastly higher temperatures and generally lower, slower and flatter pitches to contend with. But these visitors showed little inclination to adapt from the moment they arrived in this country and even less determination to stand tall under pressure.
Until yesterday. Ramnaresh Sarwan, with two flops in the first Test behind him, re-emerged as a batsman of high quality to score a splendid century after making three of them in four innings in home conditions. Then, when a battling effort from the lower order failed by 60 runs to save the follow-on, Chris Gayle met new-ball fire with a flashing blade until being cut off in something like his prime.
Australia are due to announce their Ashes squad on Wednesday and, although some of the game's recently retired greats – Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist – will be missing, a list headed by Ricky Ponting and including names such as Phil Hughes, Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson should convince everyone that winning back the urn is likely to be anything but straightforward for England.
Just as well then, perhaps, that their bowlers had to go through the gears yesterday, trying different tactics and operating to plans devised by Strauss. There will be plenty of times against Australia, no doubt, when the pitch looks heartbreakingly flat to the home attack, runs are flowing and a bit of inspiration is needed to achieve a breakthrough.
Stuart Broad's first innings dismissals of Shiv Chanderpaul and, especially, Sarwan were classic examples of ball overcoming bat with the help of a lot of thought and a great deal of skill. Chanderpaul looked as though it would take a tow truck to haul him from the crease – until an off-cutter, delivered from around the wicket, did the trick much more subtly. Then real aggression, and a cleverly set field, accounted for Sarwan. One of several bouncers was hooked to the boundary to complete an excellent century. But, with a short leg posted to prevent an easy knock down, Sarwan was in real trouble when a searing delivery climbed towards his throat and he could only glove a simple catch to gully. It was a terrific piece of bowling by Broad and no wonder his captain looked as pleased as Punch with a youngster who is fast developing into an international cricketer of note.
Broad, like Jimmy Anderson, is a certainty for the Ashes series, with the pair of them set to share the new ball in Cardiff unless injury or something unforeseen happens between now and early July. As for Graham Onions, he must keep fighting for a starting place and may be edged out by Ryan Sidebottom come the day of reckoning. But the Durham man is making a decent case for inclusion.
Seven victims on his debut at Lord's were followed by those of Sarwan and Gayle in the second innings yesterday, and that they came after Onions had withstood a brief but brutal assault from Gayle shows there is ticker to go with the talent.
"We are delighted to have taken 10 wickets in the day on what is still a pretty decent batting track," Broad said. "We bowled well as a unit and backed each other up."Reuse content