When reviewing the First Test between England and the touring West Indies, the most surprising element may be that I am writing it after the fifth day of play had been completed. Many anticipated the tourists to not put up much of a fight, like their predecessors did in 2009 when led by (now absent) Chris Gayle they put up little or no battle.
This side now led by former England bowling coach, Otis Gibson, showed a little more tenacity and desire to hold up an England side who wanted to do away with this series and regain form before the visit of South Africa in July when it is a straight battle for the No. 1 side in the world.
Yet the thing to take away from Lords, is that this Windies side is starting to get better, a collective force that is a sum of its parts. They arrive unfortunate to lose to the Australians at home, yet the defeats were all close and victory could have been gotten if luck fell their way. Yet they will admit, when you are down and out - like a club fighting relegation - luck does tend to desert you.
On Thursday morning, day one, Andrew Strauss won the toss and elected to bowl - typical English conditions, cloud cover with his bowling line up of Anderson, Broad, Swann and Bresnan who was selected ahead of Graeme Onions and home boy Steven Finn.
The West Indies selected a side that had a surprise due to injury; Ravi Rampaul did not recover from an ankle injury picked up in the England Lions encounter last week, so a debut was handed to Shannon Gabriel, a 24 year old fast bowler, whose action reminds us of famous bowlers of yore.
In the first hour, England make inroads as with Anderson swinging it both ways removing Kieron Powell (or is it Pollard as the scoreboard suggested) and Kirk Edwards with his swing movement. This brings Darren Bravo, the highly thought of batsmen whose motion reminds many of Brian Charles Lara in partnership with Adrian Barath - before Barath is undone by Stuart Broad an hour after tea. Then Broad begins to takeover proceedings but not before we enjoy another batting masterclass by Shivnarine Chanderpaul who scores a selfless 87* as runs out of partners.
Broad who finishes with 7-72, bowled with a bit of venom inducing bounce out of a pitch to remove Marlon Samuels. England are helped by a comical runout involving Shiv and Bravo, that ends Bravo's innings at 29. England take the new ball, and Broad cleans up the tail. One wicket was remaining at the end of play 243-9, he removes debutant Gabriel with the first ball of the second morning. Swann taking the catch at 2nd slip quite easily. Broad would be on a hat-trick with his first ball of West Indies second innings.
England's first innings is one of hard work intitially as Strauss attempts to see out the first hour as the live wire pair of Kemar Roach and Fidel Edwards offer zip and fire. Having put on 47 for the first wicket, Cook tries to cut a ball too close to his body and plays on, gone for 26. Jonathan Trott arrives and puts on a fine 147 partnership with the captain before he feathers one behind off of the slower medium pace of Darren Sammy, for another half-century. Trott is an accumulator and helps Strauss with his pace of the innings.
Andrew Strauss is desperate to score his first century in Tests since November 2010 on the last Ashes tour in Brisbane, and he does so as he finishes the day on 121. The ovation when he does reach three figures is prolonged showing how much in favour the captain is with the masses in terms of popularity. The next morning Strauss adds just one to his total departing for 122.
The West Indies bowl much better on the third morning, collectively as a unit. The last 7 wickets fell for 132, helped by Ian Bell going to 61 marshalling the tail. Debutant Jonny Bairstow showed some flashes with some wonderful drives before falling for a plumb lbw. Shannon Gabriel got his first Test wicket cleaning up Matt Prior who played all round a ball that seamed off the pitch. England finished on 398 a lead of 155.
The Windies batted much better in the second innings, as the pitch got flatter although a mini-collapse left them at 36-3 after being 36-0 topped off by Bairstow running out Kirk Edwards with a direct throw. Panic sets in when Bravo fails again shouldering arms to Graeme Swann leaving them 65-4. Yet Chanderpaul (again) and Marlon Samuels bat diligently and with intelligence putting on 157 for the fifth wicket, before Samuels who looked very good on both sides of the wicket nips at one outside off with Swann snaring the catch at slip, for 86. Chanderpaul then falls lbw to Swann, to one that straightens and is confirmed on review.
Some swishing from Ramdin and Sammy extend West Indies lead and eventually Gabriel is last man out again as Swann bowls him. West Indies all out for 345, setting England a victory total of 191, Broad takes 4-93 giving him 11 in the match.
Due to the resistance of the lower order England have to sustain a tricky 4 over spell on Sunday evening and with fire in Babylon in their loins, Kemar Roach removes Strauss (4th slip) and nightwatchmen Anderson caught behind leaving England 11-2 overnight.
After a good night's sleep Roach and Edwards come firing in and the plan to get rid of Trott early works as he fends at one to second slip to Roach; and Kevin Pietersen's attempt to hit Gabriel out of the attack fails as after hitting the previous ball for four, he then attempts the same shot from a slower ball with less bounce and lower edges it to Ramdin, leaving England 57-4. With still over 100 runs required, England have work to do against a new ball attack which is getting seam movement off a slow pitch.
The coming together of Ian Bell with the anchored Alastair Cook, however, leads England to victory. This is not helped by the bowling options diminishing for the Windies; without Rampaul or a spin option in Shane Shillingford - they have to fall on Darren Sammy and Marlon Samuels to bowl overs; neither bowl balls that are intimidating and Samuels does not spin the ball. Cook and Bell pick off the runs easily, scoring 121 in the morning session, leaving just 60 required for victory after lunch.
Cook is caught out at gully with two runs still required on 79, Jonny Bairstow joined Ian Bell yet if falls to Bell to hit the winning runs as he finishes unbeaten on 63* his second fifty of the match.
For England, it was a job well done and get the victory that many expected. As for West Indies there are a lot of positives to take from this test - a better disciplined and patient batting display second time around, good bowling all round from the three seamers. They will be hopeful that Rampaul can return to the line up and having that spin option may prove vital at Trent Bridge, where a spinner can be rewarded with some good fortune.
There were low expectations of this test series, yet the West Indies have shown a better side of themselves on this occasion and they can be proud of their efforts. Onwards to Nottingham now, which starts on Friday 25th May at Trent Bridge.
England v West Indies, 1st Test, Lords, 17th-21st May
West Indies 1st Inns 243 (Chanderpaul 87, Broad 7-72) and 2nd Inns 345 (Chanderpaul 91, Samuels 86)
England 1st Inns 398 (Strauss 122, Bell 61) and 2nd Inns 193-5 (Cook 79, Bell 63*)
by 5 wickets.
England lead the 3 match series 1-0
Man of the Match: Stuart Broad, 11-165 in the match