Cricket log - March 2004
England vs West Indies, 1st Test, Kingston, Jamaica, 11-15 March 2004
The anticipation was high for the contest between these two sides. Both teams, so wise heads were saying, had raw, inexperienced bowling attacks, which would be dominated by strong batting line-ups on relatively lifeless pitches. The first match took place in Jamaica at Sabrina Park, home to the infamous abandoned Test the last time England visited. West Indies won the toss and chose to bat, and they started impressively, reaching 281-5, with new boys Devon Smith and Ryan Hinds scoring 101 and 84 respectively, before a mini-collapse saw them bowled out for 311, with the wickets spread evenly around the English bowlers.
Englandís response stuttered to 33-2, with Fidel Edwards blasting through the openers, before Butcher and Hussain steadied things, slowly but surely and riding their luck somewhat, each getting to 58 before getting out. A slightly more resolute tail (compared to West Indies) meant England reached 339 all out, a small lead of 28 runs. A brief mention for Andrew Flintoff, who cruised to 46 off only 50 balls before falling to the gentle spinners of Sarwan, and promised more, but still an innings which gave the initiative to England.
The teams as expected were evenly matched, to this point anyway, and an exciting finale to the Test match was expected. So enter stage left Stephen Harmison. Harmison has come on strides in the last few months, picking up nine wickets against Bangladesh in late 2003, and he came to the fore at the start of day four. Resuming on 8-0, Harmison, getting lift at pace and working in tandem with Hoggard, ran through the top order, as 13-0 turned into 21-5, with Sarwan, Chanderpaul and the captain Lara all picking up ducks. West Indies were in shock, but were momentarily steadied by Hinds and Jacobs, who put on 20 before Harmison struck again and the West Indies subsided completely, going from 41-5 to 47 all out, the lower order batsman offering slip catching practice. This was the West Indiesí lowest ever Test score, partly making up for England getting skittled by Ambrose for 46 a few years back.
Harmison finished with 7-12 off 12.3 overs, easily Harmisonís best ever figures, and also the best figures in a Test match at Kingston by any bowler. It left England with 20 to win, which they duly knocked off inside 3 overs, to round off an emphatic victory by 10 wickets. Spare a thought for those who bought tickets for the final day, who might, after three days of this Test match, have expected a gripping dayís play. Unsurprisingly, Harmison was awarded man of the match, to go with his man of the match award at Dhaka against Bangladesh.
England won by 10 wickets (scorecard)
England vs West Indies, 2nd Test, Port of Spain, Trinidad, 19-23 March 2004
Again, the West Indies won the toss and chose to bat, no doubt hoping to exorcise the demons that surfaced in Jamaica. It appeared a good decision too, as they moved serenely to 100-0, before a crucial 5 minutes before lunch saw Gayle, Smith and Lara (for another rare duck) dismissed by that man Harmison again. Rain saw a stop-start dayís play, and West Indies mirrored this by stuttering along to 208 all out, having lost all 10 wickets for 108 runs, with Harmison again the West Indiesí tormentor Ė he finished with 6-61. The last two wickets fell on the second day, which was fractured by more rain, with hardly any play possible. There was enough time, though, for Best and Collins to remove the England openers and leave the visitors in trouble at 8-2. Time for the obligatory grit, determination and luck from Englandís experienced top order batsmen, as they eventually finished on 54-2 at the end of the day, with only 42 overs of Englandís innings possible.
The third day proved decisive, as Butcher and Hussain put on 120 for the third wicket, both reaching the 50 mark before getting out soon after (as in the first Test). They had done their job, though, and it was now Thorpeís turn to star, as he struck 90, coaxing a precious lead out of the middle order (an 85-run partnership with Read being particularly crucial), before England lost their last four wickets for four runs, to finish on 319 and, given the low scoring nature of the game, a decisive lead of 101 runs. West Indies struggled again in the second innings, as Englandís pace quartet did for them, this time Jones taking the dayís best figures, with 5-57, a welcome return following the freak injury suffered while fielding against Australia the previous winter which kept him out for so long.
West Indiesí problem was their lack of ability to sustain any meaningful partnerships, collapsing from 158-3 to 209 all out, Lara making only 8. Still, they got 1 more run than they managed in the first innings. This left England needing 99 runs to win and they didnít hang around, knocking them off in 15 overs, despite the loss of three wickets (Vaughan and Trescothick falling cheaply again). England went 2-0 up with the two to play, and Harmison picked up his second man of the match award for his bowling in the first innings.
England won by 7 wickets (scorecard)