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WI blast way to Nat West final

WI blast way to Nat West final

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by TONY BEST

AT LORD’S – A warm sun lit up Lord’s, the pitch made batting a pleasure, the outfield was as smooth as a billiard table top and the most famous ground in all of cricketdom was filled to its 30 000 capacity. {{more}}
It was the day for the batsmen to gain their revenge for the damp surfaces and winter weather in which they were harassed by bowlers who made the ball swerve in the air and jag off the pitch in the preceding matches in the NatWest Series.
The change produced 561 runs off 99.1 overs in the third and final match between the West Indies and England, 11 sixes and 46 fours and three individual hundreds.
The victory went to the West Indies, by seven wickets with five balls remaining, securing their place in Saturday’s final against New Zealand as England were eliminated by their fifth loss in their six completed matches, failing to defend a total of 285 for seven.
England, predictably sent in once Brian Lara won the toss, were propelled to their unlikely total by a phenomenal hundred by Andrew Flintoff and his fourth-wicket partnership of 226 off 188 balls with the left-handed Andrew Strauss, who also reached three figures.
Theirs was a new record for England for any wicket in One-Day Internationals and left the crowd that filled every seat at Lord’s breathless by the audacious strokeplay that brought 121 off the last ten overs.
For ferocity and certainty of hitting, Flintoff’s 123 off 104 balls, with seven sixes and eight fours, matched even two of the most famous hundreds in One-Day Internationals at Lord’s, Clive Lloyd’s 105 in the first World Cup final in 1975 and Viv Richards’ unbeaten 139 four years later.
Drafted into the squad after England’s two initial losses and used purely as a batsman because of an injured ankle, this was the big right-hander’s second hundred in successive matches, following his 108 in the defeat against New Zealand in Bristol on Sunday.
But it was again not enough to prevent England’s fourth loss in five completed matches in the tournament.
Chris Gayle expertly anchored the West Indies response to England’s imposing 285 for seven, surviving difficult chances to Strauss at 19 and batting from first ball to last when he was unbeaten on 132, victory was claimed and the Man-Of-The-Match award his.
Tall as Flintoff and as capable of the same withering power, the left-handed opener fulfilled an unfamiliar role by anchoring the innings, staying for 165 balls and allowing himself a solitary six, but 12 fours.
He shared a decisive run-a-ball second-wicket partnership of 187 with Ramnaresh Sarwan whose 89 from 78 balls was filled with exquisite strokes in all directions.
His nine fours, mostly from drives straight and through extra-cover, relied on timing and placement rather than share brute force.
When Sarwan snicked a catch to the keeper off James Anderson and captain Brian Lara was out in the same way 16 runs and 3.3 overs later, the West Indies were 218 for three in the 42nd over.
They were 69 short of their target as the spectre of another collapse like the seven for 36 in the preceding match against New Zealand loomed.
But Ricardo Powell arrived to typically launch a six over long-off and three fours in 33 from 22 balls as he and Gayle carried West Indies to their triumph.
The result was close but it was not a surprise.
At another packed and attractive ground in bright sunshine on a placid pitch and a speedy outfield, the West Indies successfully overhauled England totals of 281 for six and 280 for eight in back-to-back weekend matches at the Beausejour Stadium in the recent series in the Caribbean.
They were confident they could do it again.
There were mixed fortunes for the respective all-rounders.
Flintoff’s lingering ankle injury precluded him from bowling after he was fast tracked into the squad following England’s first two defeats. He might have regarded
himself blessed by some magnanimous god that he only had to bat on this day.
The two Dwaynes, Bravo and Smith, were obliged to complete ten overs each of their medium-pace in the absence of Jermaine Lawson, down with the flu, and Ravi Rampaul, still suffering from sore shins.
Neither had the chance to bat, each was roughly treated with the ball.
Bravo, the tournament’s leading wicket-taker until yesterday, was pummelled for four sixes when Flintoff was on the go at the tailend of the innings. He also went for seven fours in conceding 80.
Smith was taken for three sixes and five fours as his ten overs cost 71.
When Flintoff and Strauss changed into high gear, Bravo’s last four overs went for 53, Smith’s last three for 38 as the last ten overs yielded 121.
There had been nothing to forewarn of such pyrotechnics.
Tino Best, genuinely fast, accurate and coaxing some away movement with the new ball, bowled the left-handed Marcus Trescothick with a late inswinger and had captain Michael Vaughan caught behind in his first five overs spell.

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