The idea was that West Indies would roll up, roll over and roll home. They were, bless them, the warm-up act of the summer, and while of course they were improving that did not mean they would detain England long.
This view was still so commonly held at the start of the fourth day in the first Test that bags were packed, hotels checked out of and cars started by the travelling band of observers and hangers-on that accompanies Test cricket. Four second-innings wickets down, still behind, Nottingham here we come, and bring on South Africa as soon as you can.
As events inconveniently transpired for England on a soulless pitch, the tourists refused to go anywhere quickly. The discipline, pride and downright cricketing nous that have been missing for so long were in plain view. By the close the possibility of victory was appearing as a hazy figure on the horizon.
The essential qualities were embodied as ever by Shivnarine Chanderpaul but he was not an exclusive symbol of defiance. His long partnership with Marlon Samuels was West Indies' highest for the fifth wicket at Lord's, a significant and highly unlikely feat considering the legendary teams that have come before, and all down the order there was determination and spirit. It would be premature to talk of rebirth but here were the stirrings of prolonged revival.
England should still take a lead in the series but that is not the cast-iron certainty that it appeared to be before the match and during most of it until yesterday. They will need another 181 to win with eight wickets left, their captain Andrew Strauss and nightwatchman Jimmy Anderson already having departed and Jonathan Trott surviving a reviewed lbw appeal by the skin of his teeth in a thrilling close. Although the fifth-day pitch is not likely to be much different from the first day – anodyne, that is, but still a tribute to the art of groundsmanship considering the prevailing weather in its preparatory period – it is not quite a formality.
In being kept out in the field until the evening yesterday, England did not do much wrong; West Indies did plenty right. Stuart Broad became the first England bowler for 34 years to take 10 wickets in a match at Lord's, the 13th in all and is only the fourth player in Tests to have his name on all three Lord's honours boards – for that feat, five wickets in an innings and a century. On another day the few balls that did pass the bat might have taken the edge, the run- out chances which presented themselves in the first hour might have been seized. But the real point was that West Indies did not panic or fold under such duress as they have so often done in recent years.
To withstand this vaunted bowling attack for over after over was a triumph that would not have been suspected of them even six months ago. What they appear to have realised is that occupation of the crease can blunt the determination of the most ferocious competitors. It simply gets harder for bowling.
Whatever happens, England will rue the two run-out opportunities they spurned. Neither was straightforward but both involved a batsman being well short of his ground when they were offered. Hesitation between the batsmen left Chanderpaul with much to do after Samuels nudged the ball to the on side. Although Kevin Pietersen's back-handed flick missed there might have been more support at the stumps.
Four overs later, Chanderpaul, perhaps slightly bothered after being beaten twice by Anderson, called for a single when he pushed to mid-off. Alastair Cook slipped in going for the ball and Chanderpaul, sent back, made his ground.
Survival was West Indies' chief objective but Samuels grew to the task and played the two shots of the day, consecutive off drives off Graeme Swann as he advanced down the track. The second new ball, available soon after lunch and taken immediately, assumed far greater importance than expected since West Indies were not supposed to bat that long.
The breakthrough came with a peach of a ball from Broad which Samuels had to play. His thoughts would just have been turning to a century when he got one which slanted away, took the edge and flew to second slip. The fifth-wicket stand was worth 157.
Still, the tourists stood their ground. Two overs before tea the unexpected happened when Chanderpaul swept the first ball of what was no more than a fill-in over from Swann. But it was artfully delivered from round the wicket and while criticism of Chanderpaul is a risky business, the sweep shot he played was probably not judicious. He missed and, while the lbw verdict was close, it was not close enough to be overturned on review.
The usual way of things for West Indies lately has been for any early resistance to be followed by collapse but Denesh Ramdin displayed fierce determination after an uncertain start and their captain, Darren Sammy, played in a buccaneering style that was reminiscent of a hot sunny afternoon in the old days.
These were precious runs. Sammy went not before time as far as England were concerned when he misjudged a Broad bouncer at the last moment and Ramdin gave Anderson a much-deserved wicket when he was bowled by one coming back.
There was still time for Shannon Gabriel to avoid a king pair on his Test debut and do slightly more further to annoy England, who were left with the tricky business of 20 minutes to bat in the gloom. Strauss saw out the first over but was undone by a fast, shorter ball from Kemar Roach which he might not have picked up too well and fended to second slip. Anderson was caught behind down the leg side. The tenner for admission today will be well worth it.
24,002: Balls faced by Shiv Chanderpaul in Test cricket – the fifth highest amount
34: Years between Stuart Broad's feat and another Englishman taking 11 wickets or more at Lord's – Ian Botham against New Zealand in 1978.
625: Minutes spent at the crease by Chanderpaul during the match.
157: Record fifth-wicket partner-ship for West Indies at Lord's.
Scoreboard: England v West Indies
Lord's (Third & Fourth day of five): England, with eight second-innings wickets in hand, require 181 runs to beat West Indies
England won toss
WEST INDIES — First Innings 243 (Chanderpaul 87no, Broad 7-72)
ENGLAND — First Innings 398 (Strauss 122) WEST INDIES — Second Innings (overnight 120 for 4)
S Chanderpaul lbw b Swann 91
250 balls 0 sixes 10 fours
M N Samuels c Swann b Broad 86
172 balls 0 sixes 12 fours
†D Ramdin b Anderson 43
104 balls 0 sixes 3 fours
*D J G Sammy c Prior b Broad 37
47 balls 0 sixes 5 fours
K A J Roach c Bell b Broad 4
11 balls 0 sixes 1 fours
F H Edwards not out 10
35 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
S T Gabriel b Swann 13
26 balls 0 sixes 2 fours
Extras (lb7 nb1) 8
Total (130.5 overs) 345
Fall: 1-36, 2-36, 3-36, 4-65, 5-222, 6-261, 7-307, 8-313, 9-325.
Bowler Spells: JM Anderson: 36-11-67-1 (6-2-10-0; 5-2-7-0; 3-2-4-0; 7-2-14-0; 5-2-6-0; 5-1-13-0; 5-0-13-1), SCJ Broad: 34-6-93-4 (1nb) (7-1-12-1; 6-3-19-0; 5-1-17-0; 7-1-17-1; 1-0-1-0; 8-0-27-2), T Bresnan: 36-11-105-1 (8-4-12-1; 7-2-28-0; 4-1-11-0; 5-0-16-0; 5-2-9-0; 4-0-28-0; 3-2-1-0), GP Swann: 18.5-4-59-3 (6-2-15-1; 2-1-6-0; 3-0-19-0; 3-0-5-0; 2-1-5-1; 2.5-0-9-1), IJL Trott: 6-0-14-0 (3-0-10-0; 3-0-4-0).
ENGLAND — Second Innings
*A J Strauss c Powell b Roach 1
7 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
A N Cook not out 0
10 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
J M Anderson c Ramdin b Roach 6
5 balls 0 sixes 1 fours
I J L Trott not out 0
5 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
Extras (nb3) 3
Total (for 2, 4 overs) 10
Fall: 1-1, 2-10.
Bowling: FH Edwards: 2-0-3-0 (1nb) (One Spell), KAJ Roach: 2-1-7-2 (2nb) (One Spell).
Progress: Day Four: West Indies 150 runs in 62.4 overs, Samuels 50 off 97 balls (7 fours), Chanderpaul 50 off 151 balls (6 fours), 200 runs in 75.2 overs, Lunch: 212-4 in 79 overs (Chanderpaul 73, Samuels 79), 250 runs in 97.2 overs, Tea: 265-6 in 107 overs (Ramdin 23, Sammy 4), 300 runs in 114.2 overs, 345 all out in 130.5 overs (Edwards 10). England, Close: 10-2 in 4 overs (Cook 0, Trott 0).
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and M Erasmus (South Africa)
TV umpire: Asad Rauf (Pakistan)
Match referee: RS Mahanama (Sri Lanka)