West Indies side bottoms out

Kevin Pietersen and Michael Vaughan celebrate the latter's century, Pietersen did one better. He went on to score a double hundred and was named the Man of the Match.-AP

The second Test demonstrated the potential of England and the leadership skills of Michael Vaughan, writes Ted Corbett.

There were only 211 overs in the match — less than three days as assessed by overs — as England destroyed the West Indies in the second Test at Headingley. It was a total demolition job as the Windies lost by the biggest margin in their history (an innings and 283 runs) going back to 1928 and England looked like world beaters. Well, you ought to on your own soil, against the eighth side of 10 as they attempt to regroup, try to compete without their captain and their most experienced batsman.

Anyway, there was enough joy in the England camp for them to boast about their ruthlessness — the watchword emphasised by their new coach Peter Moores — and for them to have a quiet celebration in the team hotel instead of sprinting off to their families immediately.

I have no problem with their party mood. After all, it was 188 days since they set off on their disastrous defence of the Ashes and nine months since their last Test victory. Unless I am much mistaken they did not drink a toast to their captain Michael Vaughan who had just equalled the record number of wins — 20 in 34 Tests — set by Peter May, the great captain from 1955-61.

Vaughan apparently does not rate such records; he is a team man; only the first among equals rather than subscribing to the Douglas Jardine theory that England captains had some sort of divine right to lead.

I will still wage a considerable sum that the same Michael Vaughan sneaked a peek at the headlines which noted that he was now top of the England captains who have led in a decent number of matches and thought: "I am the right man for the job." It is a human reaction and certainly in this match Vaughan could do no wrong which is not quite what his critics said as the Test began. They mentioned that it was customary, even advisable, for a batsman coming back after a long absence to prove his form in county cricket. (I note that that has often been the case in English cricket but what about countries like Australia, New Zealand and West Indies where there is not enough first class cricket for such luxuries as a slow return to the top?)

There seemed to be a suggestion that Vaughan might fall flat on his face, that really the job should still be held by Andrew Strauss — for all he has not made many runs of late — and that Vaughan had no more right to be captain than he had to live in Buckingham Palace.

Vaughan admitted after the century which rebutted all these allegations that he had felt the pressure, that he was nervous when he began and that he was surpremely happy to get to his 16th Test hundred. (So he does read about himself in the papers. Well, well, well.) His runs were beautifully fashioned, a reminder to anyone who had forgotten that when he is fit and rarin' to go there is no finer sight in the England team than Vaughan on the hunt for runs.

He claimed he had been aiming for a double hundred but that went to Kevin Pietersen, at his blitzkrieg best; a human bombardier in cricketer's whites; a one man attack of shock and awe. So, with sensible runs from Alastair Cook and Matt Prior England scored 570 for seven before Vaughan declared.

West Indies batted twice, a total of 79.2 overs; Dwayne Bravo made 52 late in their second innings and no-one else made 27. Ramnaresh Sarwan, the new captain, almost dislocated his shoulder as he dived to save a run on the boundary and took no further part; Shivnarine Chanderpaul was left out because of a knee injury; only the rain on day three suggested that they could escape. Just after tea on the fourth day it was all over.

Only Bravo among the Windies batsmen has looked the part; only Corey Collymore has given a professional performance among the bowlers. If Collymore were their fourth bowler on merit they would be happy. Sadly, he is their best. So let us forget their problems which are too many to cure and wonder about England's.

Vaughan claimed to see in the way Steve Harmison cleaned up the tail that he was heading back to his best form but we have not been convinced although the big man was better than at any time at Lord's. His match figures of 25.2-3-92-5 look presentable enough but on a pitch that only required a solid line and length performance — particularly at his 90 miles an hour — he once again bowled all over the place. So did his Durham team-mate Liam Plunkett.

They were both overshadowed by Ryan Sidebottom, unexpectedly pushed into the team by selectors who deserve a bonus for one of their most intelligent picks in years. Sidebottom rarely hits 80 miles an hour but he understands exactly what he is doing and until he lost the last bit of momentum in the second innings he looked as if he might snatch the Man of the Match award from Pietersen. I wonder how long he will be in the top echelon.

Vaughan joked that "he never swung it around like that when he played for Yorkshire" where, it seems, he was not given much credit for effort and was shipped off to Nottinghamshire without so much as a sigh of regret. But he is now, aged 29 and probably at his peak, able to trick good batsmen and has enough overs under his belt to be in perfect control.

Harmison and Plunkett have hardly bowled for their counties in the last two years.

They need the practice and, as West Indies would hardly trouble Bowling Old Lane from the Bradford League, St. Kilda from Melbourne grade cricket or any decent Minor Counties team it might be the right time for the selectors to send the pair of them back to Durham to get some practice.

The point about Vaughan's status at the top of the England captaincy table is that he has no bowlers to compete with Trueman, Statham, Bailey, Loader, Laker, Lock and Wardle, the wicket takers in May's day. If they had a poor Test they could return to county cricket and rebuild their accuracy, their pile of wickets or their collection of tricks.

England's current bowlers don't have that fall-back position as they trudge from Test to Test, to a series of one-day internationals and Twenty/20 matches or try to warm-up for an overseas series in one, or at most two games made almost meaningless because they are 12 or 13-a-side.

The second Test demonstrated the potential of England, the leadership skills of Vaughan and the batting power from No.1 to No.7 even when Andrew Flintoff is absent. The bowlers need help and it remains to be seen if Allan Donald, due to be their coach soon, can find a solution.

The scores

Second Test, Headingley, May 25 to 28. England won by an innings and 283 runs.

England — 1st innings: A. J. Strauss c Ramdin b Powell 15; A. N. Cook lbw b Gayle 42; M. P. Vaughan c Morton b Taylor 103; K. P. Pietersen c Taylor b Bravo 226; P. D. Collingwood c Gayle b Collymore 29; I. R. Bell c Ramdin b Collymore 5; M. J. Prior b Powell 75; L. E. Plunkett (not out) 44; Extras (b-1, lb-15, w-9, nb-6) 31; Total (for seven wkts. decl.) 570.

Fall of wickets: 1-38, 2-91, 3-254, 4-316, 5-329, 6-489, 7-570.

West Indies bowling: Powell 33-5-153-2; Collymore 29.1-110-2; Taylor 22-4-116-1; Bravo 24.3- 97-1; Gayle 14-1-78-1.

West Indies — 1st innings: C. H. Gayle lbw b Sidebottom 11; D. Ganga lbw b Sidebottom 5; D. S. Smith c Cook b Plunkett 26; S. C. Joseph c Strauss b Harmison 13; R. S. Morton c Prior b Harmison 5; D. J. Bravo b Sidebottom 23; D. Ramdin c Prior b Plunkett 6; D. B. L. Powell c Collingwood b Plunkett 8; J. E. Taylor (not out) 23; C. D. Collymore c Strauss b Sidebottom 3; R. R. Sarwan (absent hurt); Extras (lb-13, w-4, nb-6) 23; Total 146.

Fall of wickets: 1-17, 2-23, 3-68, 4-74, 5-82, 6-94, 7-114, 8-124, 9-146.

England bowling: Sidebottom 12-2-42-4; Harmison 12-0-55-2; Plunkett 12-1-35-3; Panesar 1-0-1-0.

West Indies — 2nd innings: C. H. Gayle c Prior b Plunkett 13; D. Ganga lbw b Sidebottom 9; D. B. L. Powell lbw b Sidebottom 0; D. S. Smith c Strauss b Sidebottom 16; S. C. Joseph lbw b Sidebottom 1; R. S. Morton c Prior b Harmison 25; D. J. Bravo c Plunkett b Panesar 52; D. Ramdin lbw b Harmison 5; J. E. Taylor b Harmison 0; C. D. Collymore (not out) 0; R. R. Sarwan (absent hurt); Extras (b-1, lb-14, nb-5) 20; Total 141.

Fall of wickets: 1-20, 2-22, 3-30, 4-47, 5-57, 6-120, 7-141, 8-141, 9-141.

England bowling: Sidebottom 15-4-44-4; Plunkett 8-1-25-1; Harmison 13.1-3-37-3; Panesar 6-1-20-1.