England suffered a dramatic, painful and utterly unexpected defeat by WestIndies in the First Test here yesterday. In a complete reversal of all the predictions before the match, the tourists were dismissed for their third-lowest score of all time, 51, losing by an innings and 23 runs.
The 24-year-old Jamaican fast bowler Jerome Taylor took 5 for 11 in nine overs, a remarkable demonstration of skill which rolled back the years. As Taylor ran through England it was as if the last decade had never happened: the West Indian pace production line was up and running again.
It was the worst possible start to Andrew Strauss's captaincy, not least because England were overwhelming favourites to beat a team whose shortcomings have so often been exposed. To his credit, Strauss immediately accepted the faults in his side. "Our batting in the second innings was very poor and there are no excuses for that," he said. "Jerome Taylor's spell was fantastic but we weren't good enough and we have to hold our hands up."
Strauss could offer no reason for the failure of England's batsmen to overhaul West Indies' first-innings lead of 72. Had England managed to forge a lead of 150 they might have been in the game. There was never a hope.
A wicket down in the third over of the reply, the course was set, and when Taylor produced a peach to bowl Kevin Pietersen with his first ball after lunch England were 12 for 3. That shortly became 26 for 7 as Taylor unnerved the tourists with fast, accurate, full-length swing bowling.
Strauss firmly refuted the suggestion that the rift in the camp which led to his appointment after Kevin Pietersen and Peter Moores were sacked as captain and coach respectively had anything to do with the failure. "I can't believe that when you're out there in the middle you're thinking about anything that has gone before," he said. "That would be an easy excuse and it's not relevant."
The result provoked inevitable comparisons with the fixture here five years ago, when West Indies were bowled out for 47. Strauss said he was angry at the way the team had let themselves down. "If there were any divisions in the side I would be worried but I don't think there are," he said. He had betterhope that is so, otherwise England could shortly find hell in paradise.
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