The Worst Team In The World

Welcome back to ‘Welcoming the Windies.’ I’ve not left the house since our seven wicket defeat to the West Indies in the 4th Test. I got over confident. I wanted to give the paying public a match worthy of their hard earned money. Instead, we suffered a humiliating defeat and gave the West Indies a sniff of getting back into the series.

The 5th Test will be different. I feel like I’ve got a point to prove more than ever before – and we once conceded 600 to South Africa.

It looks like we’ll lose some overs in this one too. The pitch shouldn’t tear up too much but I’ve still included the returning Gareth Batty as an insurance policy – the West Indies seem to have nothing but spinners.

I’ve called up Nick Knight to replace Aftab Habib who is a little out of form. Gough is still out but with four all rounders, we’re not short of options. West Indies play all three quicks but still have room for Ramnarine, as expected.

West Indies win the toss and put us in. Probably wise given it’s darker than the night outside. Atherton is clean bowled and Knight manages 11 before edging behind – quite why Ramnarine was on so early, I really don’t know. There’s a brief rain delay but after lunch the skies are clear. We are however 98/5. Ramprakash and Stewart get good starts but are out for 33 and 45 respectively whilst the usually dependant Thorpe is out for a duck.

Hollioake and Bulbeck are brilliant on their day. Luckily for me they put on over 100 and between them score more than half of our total. Once they are out for 73 and 72 the innings is soon over. A very slow 270 is our score as Headley falls to the last ball before lunch on Day Two.

The sun is shining and Wallace and Samuels are in no mood for our crap. They are approaching fifty together but Caddick finally finds the edge and it’s 47/1. Unfortunately the West Indies have star power in their middle order. Hollioake again though proves to be the magic man as he tempts Chanderpaul into a leg side slog that finds the safe hands of Mark Ramprakash. Just 8 the damage. When Bulbeck removes Lara for 1, we’re smelling blood. 63/3 is soon 103/6 as Adams (6), Hooper (15) and Jacobs (2) are all out cheaply. Wallace though remains and passes 50. Hmm.

The tailenders chip in with a few runs but Hollioake accounts for Rose and Benjamin. Wallace and Ramnarine are the last pair and the spin of Gareth Batty accounts for the opener, who has carried his bat. 160 all out. Advantage England.

There’s only a few overs to survive at the end of the day. It’s a few overs too many for Nick Knight and he’s gone for a duck. Hopefully Day Three is our day – a solid batting performance and the series will be ours.

Atherton and Stewart get it. They bat serenely at the start of and both pass 50. They’ve put on 129 by the time Atherton is trapped LBW but our lead is nearing 250. Ramprakash doesn’t last long but Thorpe picks up the baton and together with Stewart a further 103 is added. Stewart is out for 126, a grand day’s work and even if Nick Knight has failed, Stewart at number 3 has pretty much won us the match. 250/4. Hollioake and Bulbeck are allowed to cut loose with minimal success but Vince Wells makes sure the lead is over 450 with a great 67. He’s the last man out and our lead is exactly 500.

The West Indies have four sessions to score 501 to save the series. Or at least bat it out for a draw but that will mean they can tie the series at best. We’re in no mood. The bowling attack really compliments each other so even though Wallace is as stoic as ever, Headley, Caddick and Hollioake get rid of Samuels, Chanderpaul and Lara. Bulbeck bowls Adams with the last ball of the day and at 75/4, I like our chances.

Hooper and Wallace do at least provide some resistance but Wells bowls Wallace for 58 and at 104/5, another 400 is needed. Jacobs, who has frustrated me several times this summer, digs in along with Hooper and a 50 partnership is impressive though ultimately in vain. Hooper falls to Batty for 47 and once Headley bowls Jacobs for 56, the end is nigh. Sir Vince mops up – 213 all out and a win by 287 runs. The series is ours.

We needed that.

Confirmation that we’ve actually won a series.

There is a 6th Test which is just for the sake of it. Both teams are sick of the sight of each other at this stage, it has been an entire summer together. Knight is out for Gough whilst Kevin Dean replaces the injured Headley.

Just the one strike bowler for the Windies. Arthurton and Reifer are in along with Nagamootoo.

I won’t go through this in as much detail as it’s irrelevant. They win the toss and bat – our toss record is poor. Make your own jokes. Wallace is again the star man with 111. The middle order do a good job after Samuels, Chanderpaul and Lara fall cheaply. Adams and Arthurton both get fifties and at quite a rate. 357 scored in pretty much one whole day and it’ll be tough for us to win from here.

Atherton out for a duck is not the perfect response. Our middle order is good too though and there are fifties for Stewart, Ramprakash, Hollioake and Wells. Hollioake is particularly unlucky to fall for 98. We end on 384, a small lead half way through Day Three. It is finely poised.

Wallace has been the West Indies’ man of the series by a distance. He sticks in whilst all around him are being taken care of. Batty and Hollioake do the main damage, claiming four wickets between them and ripping the middle order out. Only permanent nuisance Wallace and Arthurton get scores of note but once Bulbeck claims Wallace for 93, it’s soon over. 286 all out is still reasonable and knocking off 260 in four sessions on a final day pitch will be interesting.

That task looks a little trickier at 21/2. Thankfully Ramprakash’s claim to be a spin expert is finally backed up and he’s well supported by Thorpe and Hollioake, who both pass 50. But Ramprakash’s unbeaten 129 in a partnership of 108 sees us home with a session and a bit to spare. Remarkable.

Hollioake gets man of the match for his 150 runs and 6 wickets. The team feels more balanced now than ever before.

Let’s see that in in black and white – ENGLAND WIN THE SERIES.

There you have it, miracles can happen. Our next stop will be a tour of Sri Lanka which will come your way in a few months. I dread to think how we’ll get on over there but as I’ve always said, in Wells we trust. Goodbye for now!