The England camp will no doubt feel depressed that their splendid season should have ended on a dispiriting note with their narrow defeat by the West Indies at The Oval. This is a natural reaction, but there is no need for them to be too hard on themselves. They played a handsome part in a magnificent game and the unexpected happens even to the best of sides.
When Shivnarine Chanderpaul was eighth out at 147 and 71 runs were still needed in light that was becoming the dark side of Stygian, only the formalities appeared to remain. This moment saw two redoubtable characters, Courtney Browne and Ian Bradshaw, join forces and the ninth wicket pair saw the West Indies through to victory in remarkable style.
Steve Harmison had three overs left, Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff four, Alex Wharf was bowling well and Paul Collingwood and Marcus Trescothick had both picked up an important wicket. Yet these two batsmen began to defend with determination and ability, at the same time never wasting a chance to keep the scoreboard moving. They played few false strokes and many good ones.
As the score approached 200 and the light became, for spectators who had not been out in the middle and therefore grown used to it, almost impossible, the umpires met and offered the batsmen the light. It hardly took Browne and Bradshaw a second to turn down the offer. A great many batsmen would have run for the shelter and comfort of the pavilion.
Michael Vaughan will be scratching his head for some time to come. Should he have made use of Ashley Giles's left-arm spin that has been such an asset all summer, even though the seam bowlers had jagged the ball about all day? Should he had have allowed Harmison to bowl seven overs in his first spell and not have kept one or two more up his sleeve?
One of the great joys of cricket is that every now and then logic is defied in the most breathtaking and unlikely way. It happened here and Vaughan and his side must put it behind them right away and just make sure it does not happen again.
The reverse side of the coin is that all those latterly rather dormant supporters of the game in the Caribbean, at last have something to cheer about. This victory will give West Indies cricket a badly needed shot in the arm.
England must not look over their collective shoulder at this, and should move confidently forward into the winter.Reuse content