England kept their World Cup dreams alive last night with another performance from the realms of fantasy. When it seemed certain that they were going out of the competition to West Indies, they somehow found renewed inspiration by taking the last four wickets for only three runs.
West Indies, who had been cantering to victory and qualification for the quarter-finals, were all out for 225 and lost by 18 runs. Only victory gave England a chance of progressing and while they must wait for other results in Group B to be sure, they deserve their place. England have played a series of breathtaking matches in the competition so far, with each one seemingly outdoing its predecessor for twists, turns and turbulence.
"It was another very tough game to play in," said England's captain, Andrew Strauss. "We were probably 20 or 30 runs light. There was a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the bowlers to pull us over the line. Clearly we were desperate to win and we weren't going to leave anything behind."
After West Indies had a blazing start in their pursuit of 244 to win, England pegged them back thanks to three wickets in four overs from James Tredwell, who was one of three changes in the team and had spent the tournament bowling in the nets and carrying drinks for his colleagues. He was made man of the match after finishing with four for 48. Although Chris Tremlett's return was not an outrageous success with the ball he took a crucial catch at the end and Luke Wright prevented England's innings from collapse with a calm 44.
"More than anything it was the togetherness that got us through," said Strauss. "We have been through some pretty tough times this winter as a group and we desperately didn't want to be leaving this World Cup at this stage."
After initial pyrotechnics, England reduced West Indies to 150 for six but, as in previous matches, they faced an unsung batsman determined to make a name for himself, this time 22-year-old Jamaican Andre Russell.
When he was spared on 39 after Jonathan Trott was adjudged to have grazed the boundary rope after catching the ball it seemed England's last chance had gone. But Tredwell had Russell lbw, Graeme Swann struck twice in three balls, removing the dogged Ramnaresh Sarwan, and the last wicket fell to a run-out.
"I still thought there was another twist in the tale," said Strauss. "To bring Wright and Tredwell in, in a massive game, was a bit of a gamble but they saved us."