Six of the best… England 2-0 West Indies
Relive six highlights from the Test series between England and the West Indies, which England won 2-0.
<b>Six of the best… from the England v West Indies series</b>:
<b>1) Andrew Strauss's return to form at Lord's</b>
England captain Andrew Strauss came into the series with a massive weight of expectation on his shoulders. He hadn't scored a century in 18 months, and people were seriously questioning his place in the side, never mind his captaincy. Former players, sitting in their glass houses (AKA commentary boxes) discussed his predicament ad nauseam, and he must have gotten so sick of it that he scored a century at the first opportunity.
His 122 at Lord's wasn't scored at a blistering pace, but it was fluid and interesting, including 19 boundaries over the course of nearly seven hours. In fact, his knock held the England first innings together, as only Ian Bell (61) made a score of significance on their way to 398 all out. Strauss's joy at reaching his ton was tempered with obvious relief at getting the monkey off his back, and no-one watching would have begrudged him the achievement.
<b>2) Stuart Broad's 11 wickets at Lord's</b>
Stuart Broad recorded his best Test innings figures at Lord's, taking seven for 72 at an economy rate under three in the first innings. Admittedly, the West Indies batting line-up was beyond brittle and inexperienced, with only Shiv Chanderpaul offering any resistance. In fact, only he and wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin had played against England at home before, back in 2009.
Still, Broad's bowling was superb. He dismissed opener Adrian Barath, who had been doing a decent job and had scored 42, before demolishing the final six batsmen on the list for a mere 61 runs. Broad's form continued into the second innings, where he took four wickets to secure the Man of the Match award and a career-best match haul of 11/165.
<b>3) Tim Bresnan's performance at Trent Bridge</b>
When Tim Bresnan plays a Test match, England don't lose. He's played 14 so far, and only the last one, the drawn game (thanks to rain) at Edgbaston, saw him fail to secure a win. While he may be England's lucky charm, the Yorkshireman is nothing but hard-working, and at Trent Bridge he demonstrated this perfectly.
He took four wickets in each innings to end the match with best Test figures of eight for 141. The first innings saw him rip the heart out of the Windies attack after Broad and James Anderson had removed the top order. Brez, as he's known, managed to do what seemed impossible as he got rid of Marlon Samuels and Darren Sammy when they both had centuries.
The second innings saw him claim four more scalps, all LBW's, as his line and length stayed constant throughout. He added to his bowling performance with a nuggety 39 not out in the first innings.
<b>4) Marlon Samuels and Darren Sammy's partnership</b>
While the West Indies top order struggled throughout the series, all-rounder Marlon Samuels shone in his role as rescuer-in-chief. He would have looked good in comparison even if the openers had fired, and he finished the series as top scorer overall, with a century and three fifties in his 386 runs.
His most memorable knock came at Trent Bridge, when he and skipper Darren Sammy put together a partnership of 204, at a run rate of nearly four an over. Prior to their union, the Windies were in big trouble on six for 136, but Samuels (117), with a new-found maturity following his two-year match-fixing ban, steadied the ship alongside his captain.
Samuels stuck around to see Sammy score his first Test century (106), before they fell within a few balls of each other to Bresnan. Samuels followed it up with a score of 76 in the second innings, the only man to score more than 25, as the Windies fell for 165 and ended up losing by nine wickets.
<b>5) Tino Best's record-breaking 95</b>
Ah, Tino. This innings was all anyone could talk about on day four of the third Test at Edgbaston (aside from Ramdin's stupid note) because it was as thrilling as it was surprising. Best's previous high score was 27, and the Windies were in dire straits on 280 for nine when he walked to the middle, but he took no notice of the windows and blasted his way to fifty at less than a run a ball.
The interesting thing about his innings, aside from the sheer joy on his face every time he struck a boundary, was that he played like a proper batsman. Very rarely did he swing and miss, and most of his shots were well-played strokes an opener would have been proud of. Everyone in Birmingham seemed to be willing him on to his maiden ton, but the 'nervous nineties' struck and he couldn't reach triple figures, despite breaking the record for a number 11 in the process.
<b>6) KP's innings at Edgbaston</b>
Kevin Pietersen's innings on one of two days of action in rainy Birmingham was lovely to watch. He played with such ease and confidence on his way to 78, scoring freely at a run a ball, and having absolutely no trouble with 'mystery spinner' Sunil Narine, who he creamed to all parts of the ground.
Pietersen's display, even though it was on a flat wicket in a dead-rubber match, demonstrated his value to the limited-overs squad, and would have pained the people watching who had hoped to see him at the World Twenty20 in September. It was almost as if he was batting to prove a point: "See! Look at what you're missing by making me quit!" Cricket fans will miss watching his contributions a lot in future, one suspects.
<b>Lindsay du Plessis</b>
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