West Indies manages a draw

The fifth Test finally came alive on the final day as nerves and tension superseded benign pitch conditions in Trinidad. By Vic Marks.

The winter began with Chris Gayle swatting sundry English bowlers for six in Antigua. Five months later he was still tormenting them but this time with a bat that was dead, yet defiant almost to the end of the match.

Gayle is his own man; his tactics have attracted criticism at home and abroad. His assessment of the pitch at the Queens Park Oval, after two or three balls of the match, was that there was no point trying to bowl anyone out on it. Now he can smile his broad smile and, if necessary, mumble 1-0.

The pitch did not change that much on the last day but the match situation did — deliciously. Criticisms of this surface or the one in Barbados should not be swept away amid the excitement of a Test match, which briefly wobbled from moribund to mesmerising on the final afternoon.

Cricket becomes fascinating when the mind games begin, when each side can either scent an unlikely victory or fear the worst. Then the brain starts to play its tricks. We were in this territory after lunch on the last day.

England sensed something special might be on the horizon from the moment Paul Collingwood at second slip flung out his right hand and found the ball residing there after an edge from Lendl Simmons. This was an astonishing catch. Would it be the prelude to an astonishing afternoon? A spark of brilliance like that can energise a side in a milli-second.

Devon Smith is all too susceptible to mind games. We may have witnessed his final shot in Test cricket. A close lbw shout was rejected, but he was on edge. Andrew Strauss and Graeme Swann duly left acres of space open on the leg-side and Smith just could not resist. His humiliation was compounded when he opted to refer the decision. The ball was hitting the middle of middle. This is goodbye to Mr. Smith, not au revoir.

We have written lots of Swann, the unlikely highest wicket-taker in the series. And we should see much more of him over the next year or two. He bowled exceptionally. His stock ball does not have Panesar’s natural venom, but in all other areas Swann is currently superior. His variety is subtler — note his fine arm ball to dismiss Ramnaresh Sarwan — and he shows his maturity in the way he builds up a rapport with his umpire.

Relative to his spin partner he is an objective appealer. He checked several shouts when he realised that they had little merit. Any umpire appreciates that. By comparison Monty may soon end up paying for the privilege of playing for England.

Swann’s standing is enhanced beyond any of the other tourists in the party. The trouble was that every time he beat the bat he also seemed to beat the gloves of England’s wicketkeeper. Matt Prior had a brilliant game in front of the stumps, a very ordinary one behind them. Only Nell Gwynne was much worse at keeping legs together.

However, so numerous are the uncertainties within the England side at the moment that they are unlikely to fiddle with their keeper again. Slow-turning pitches, like here and at Galle in Sri Lanka, appear to be Prior’s nemesis.

Other plusses: Andrew Strauss has evolved as a batsman and a captain. He has never batted more fluently and surely no recent England captain has declared so frequently — and to such little effect. After 51 all out England were never bowled out in three Tests, an odd statistic, but not one to cheer them on the last day at Queen’s Park Oval.

So there were plenty of runs for all bar Owais Shah. Of the bowlers Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson have been required to play all the Tests, so they deserve to start in May with the odd blade of green grass visible along with the beaming smile of Christopher Gayle.

THE SCORES

Fifth Test, Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain, Trinidad, March 6 to 10. Match drawn.

England 1st innings: A. J. Strauss b Edwards 142; A. N. Cook c Ramdin b Powell 12; O. A. Shah (run out) 33; K. P. Pietersen b Hinds 10; P. D. Collingwood lbw b Baker 161; M. J. Prior (not out) 131; S. C. J. Broad c Simmons b Baker 19; G. P. Swann (not out) 11; Extras (b 8, lb 7, w 1, nb 11) 27; Total (for six wkts. decl.) 546.

Fall of wickets: 1-26, 1-133 (Shah, retired), 2-156, 3-263, 4-268, 5-486, 6-530.

West Indies bowling: Edwards 24-5-63-1; Powell 16-1-79-1; Baker 23-4-77-2; Nash 23-3-77-0; Gayle 26-1-80-0; Hinds 39.5-2-126-1; Smith 1-0-3-0; Simmons 6-0-26-0.

West Indies 1st innings: C. H. Gayle c Strauss b Swann 102; D. S. Smith b Panesar 28; D. B. L. Powell c Pietersen b Broad 0; R. R. Sarwan lbw b Khan 14; L. M. P. Simmons lbw b Panesar 24; S. Chanderpaul (not out ) 147; B. P. Nash c Collingwood b Broad 109; R. O. Hinds st. Prior b Swann 23; D. Ramdin lbw b Anderson 15; F. H. Edwards c Prior b Broad 8; L. S. Baker lbw b Swann 0; Extras (b 35, lb 12, w 11, nb 16) 74; Total 544.

Fall of wickets: 1-90, 2-96, 3-118, 3-195 (Gayle, retired), 4-203, 5-437, 6-482, 7-519, 8-526, 9-543.

England bowling: Anderson 32-7-70-1; Broad 30-11-67-3; Khan 25-1-111 -1; Swann 45.4-12-130-3; Panesar 43-6-114-2; Pietersen 3-0-5-0.

England 2nd innings: A. J. Strauss c & b Gayle 14; A. N. Cook c Ramdin b Hinds 24; O. A. Shah c Ramdin b Baker 1; K. P. Pietersen c sub b Edwards 102; P. D. Collingwood c & b Hinds 9; M. J. Prior b Baker 61; S. C. J. Broad (not out) 13; Extras (b 2, lb 6, w 1, nb 4) 13; Total (for six wkts. decl.) 237.

Fall of wickets: 1-26, 2-27, 3-72, 4-101, 5-207, 6-237.

West Indies bowling: Edwards 11.4-1-67-1; Baker 8-1-39-2; Gayle 3-0-16-1; Hinds 8-0-57-2; Simmons 5-0-29-0; Nash 3-0-21-0.

West Indies 2nd innings: D. S. Smith lbw b Swann 17; L. M. P. Simmons c Collingwood b Anderson 8; R. R. Sarwan c Collingwood b Swann 14; R. O. Hinds c Collingwood b Panesar 20; S. Chanderpaul lbw b Swann 6; B. P. Nash lbw b Anderson 1; D. Ramdin (not out) 17; C. H. Gayle lbw b Panesar 4; D. B. L. Powell b Anderson 0; F. H. Edwards (not out) 1; Extras (b 17, lb 6, w 1, nb 2) 26; Total (for eight wkts.) 114.

Fall of wickets: 1-25, 2-31, 3-58, 4-80, 5-85, 6-90, 7-107, 8-109.

England bowling: Anderson 16-7-24-3; Broad 5-3-9-0; Swann 21-13-13-3; Khan 4-0-11-0; Panesar 19.5-9-34-2.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009