Another day, another West Indies disaster. In the good old years, when they were kings of the world, yesterday's events would have been seen as a calypso collapso, a minor blip with recovery round the next bend.
But if their subsidence in the Second npower Test was spectacular, it was also merely normal service. The tourists lost - in some cases donated - their last six wickets for 13 runs in 63 balls to leave England 230 runs ahead. There is no point in using upbeat alliteration. Woeful Windies it has to be.
Ashley Giles, who had gone wicketless for 25 overs, finished them off by taking four wickets for five runs in 33 balls. It is tempting to say that Giles is a born-again bowler, but in its way this is his first coming. He now has 19 wickets in his last two-and-a-half Test matches, cracking going for a chap who had taken only 88 in his previous 35.
Had England decided to enforce the follow-on the likelihood is that they would have made deep inroads into the second innings. But they might also have exposed themselves to a greater possibility of defeat, daft as that sounds with West Indies seriously threatening world stocks of plates on which they can hand games to the opposition.
Michael Vaughan decided to bat again, and in the long final session the lead was extended to 378. England were not too clever in the batting department themselves, and since they have been privately berating the pitch for being too slow, this compounded their shortcomings. But they do not have to bat fourth.
One of the safer sporting predictions of the summer is that West Indies will not save it. They are in desperate shape, they are mostly lethargic in the field, they invariably lose the crucial sessions. By now, they cannot have the faintest idea where their next Test win is coming from, unless Bangladesh are in town, and that is no shoo-in. Of course, if they somehow win this match, suddenly everything would be grand again.
If all was not quite going swimmingly for them at one point yesterday, they were also in no imminent danger of drowning. Brian Lara and Ramnaresh Sarwan had set out their stall on Friday afternoon by taking the attack to England. Their third-wicket stand reached 209 yesterday morning with some swing available to the bowlers if they wanted it.
Lara had announced himself by straight-driving his first ball of the morning for four and clipping his next through square leg to the boundary. Vaughan's only reaction to this could have been "Uh-uh". Lara unfurled three more boundaries, but it was noticeable that he could not keep still at the crease.
England reprieved Sarwan when Graham Thorpe shelled a chance from a slash at backward point. It was travelling but it should have been taken. Thus, the partnership was beginning to get beyond worrisome for England when Lara edged a half-hearted drive to Thorpe at third slip. He took this one.
This was precisely the breakthrough England required, but there was still no sign of the carnage that lay in wait. Sarwan moved to the sixth hundred of his Test career, his first against England, and although Shivnarine Chanderpaul was greeted by Flintoff with a blistering yorker first ball he soon appeared to take root again.
But he was given the most outrageous help. Chanderpaul, facing Giles, was deceived in clipping the ball to leg and his shot went in a fairly gentle parabola to Vaughan, who had positioned himself at short midwicket. The ball hit his upraised hands and plopped out. It is a contender for the dolliest catch ever dropped by an England captain. It was possible to tell that Vaughan knew he had dropped a clanger because he kicked the ground, which is the equivalent of any other player trashing the dressing room.
It was shortly after Flintoff induced Sarwan to chop on, trying to hit his 26th four from his 226th ball, that the crumple began. England could have taken the second new ball, indeed there was some muttering that they ought to have done if they wanted to bring an early close to the innings. The evidence of reverse swing from the ball that had been replaced after 60 overs persuaded them to plough on.
Giles beat Dwayne Bravo's forward defensive, Matthew Hoggard found Ridley Jacobs' outstretched edge and Giles then snared the wicket that effectively sealed West Indies' fate. Chanderpaul prodded, the ball went from pad to glove to Robert Key at silly point. Chanderpaul had batted 17 hours, 12 minutes since his last dismissal against Bangladesh on 30 May, making 101no, 128no, 93no and 45. He might have been disappointed, since he once went more than 22 hours between dismissals, a span which now remains the record.
There was no fight left in West Indies after that. Flintoff grabbed an excellent catch off Giles at leg slip with razor-sharp reactions. Stephen Harmison took his first wicket of the innings and Geraint Jones his first catch. It was a straightforward offering but nonetheless a relief. Jones had another scruffy day at the wicketkeeping office. He needs the runs he scores just as much as the side need them.
Giles had Corey Collymore leg-before to wrap up matters and West Indies were again staring down both barrels. This is a position so familiar to them by now that they must almost be accustomed to the pain.
When England lost three early wickets in reply it was no more than a suspicion of a comeback. These sides have been in competition for most of this year, and when the chips have been down, England have picked them up every time.
But it was not auspicious batting, and demonstrates that against sides who have a clue what they are doing (oh, Australia, say) England could still pay a heavy penalty. Andrew Strauss, who presumably only comes to the party in Test matches at Lord's, nicked a wide one that was Jermaine Lawson's second ball. Key drove lamely to mid-on, and despite his double hundred in the First Test now finds himself in urgent need of runs again. Vaughan failed to clear Chris Gayle at midwicket, again off Lawson, who had taken three wickets in 26 balls.
This potential mess was cleaned up in characteristic no-nonsense fashion by Marcus Trescothick, who kept it simple. England are virtually out of sight, they should win some time tomorrow. But the possibility of another calypso collapso today should not be ruled out. The home side should already be thinking in terms of a whitewash. West Indies may not know what to think.Reuse content