Alastair Cook and Ian Bell put to bed some early nerves in leading England to a convincing enough five-wicket triumph over the West Indies on day five of the first Test at Lord’s on Monday.
Void of the services of captain and first-innings centurion Andrew Strauss, who fell for a mere single late on day four, the home camp endured further alarm when Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen failed before lunch.
Trott and Pietersen’s inadequacies, however, were soon surmounted by the dominance of Cook and Bell. The left-hander, welcoming the 29th half-century of his career and the right-hander, for his 30th 50, proved largely imperious to render the Windies’ initial promise null and void.
The visiting side sported high hopes of upstaging the number one-ranked Test team, whose pursuit of a modest 191-run target on a Lord’s surface primed for batting didn’t prove as fluid as they would have liked.
Trott insisted on flashing hard at some tight line bowling from Kemar Roach, succeeding only in gifting Darren Sammy a good catch in the slips, while Kevin Pietersen’s attempt to boss debutant Shannon Gabriel on the pull resulted in a faint bottom edge to wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin.
At 57 for four, it left England’s initial air of calm rather rattled, but Cook and Bell soon restored the inevitable. While the Windies’ ambitious start was fleeting at best, they were never really going to have enough left in the tank to ultimately trump their superior opposition.
A 132-run alliance for the fifth wicket was, for the most part, chanceless. Cook offered the odd edge when the quest for the last dregs increased, but nothing went close enough to hand. Batting at more than four runs per over, the pair benefited from a telling lack of support for Roach in striking 15 boundaries between them.
The pace ace was on song throughout, and finished with six scalps for the match. But the brains trust must reconsider the makeup of their attack come the second Test at Trent Bridge later this week, when picking Ravi Rampaul ahead of the ineffective Fidel Edwards will surely be the better bet.
Bell remained unbeaten on 63, but Cook couldn’t go the distance. Looking to slice four on the cut, the tall opener looked on in dismay as the ball flew straight to Kirk Edward’s welcoming hands at gully.
Jonny Bairstow, in turn, would’ve fancied striking the winning runs in his first Test, but instead rode an lbw review. The inside edge was clear, but clutching at straws, the Windies gambled regardless. The Englishman, of course, survived.
Instead it was Bell who welcomed the victory with a wonderful whip through the on-side for four. The look on bowler Marlon Samuels’ face said it all: so near, yet so far.
The West Indians will be hard pressed to take England close again. Stuart Broad, named Man of the Match for his record 11-wicket haul, and company are not going to let the lessons of the past two days go unheeded.Comments: