From 57 for 4, still 134 short of victory, Cook and Bell should have been under pressure, but they gambolled along at roughly four runs an over in a stand of 132. It ended with England two short of victory when Cook chopped Darren Sammy to gully. Ian Bell, who is already beginning to look like his old self again after a torrid winter, flicked Marlon Samuels through mid-on for the winning boundary in the next over.
The sun that is now finally promised after a raggy-arsed spring will have been a relief for West Indies, but it shone upon on an England victory that has put them 1-0 up in the series with two to play.
West Indies have now won just two of their 31 Tests since they dismissed England for 51 in Jamaica in 2009. They have only a few days to reassess before the second Test begins in Nottingham on Friday. All manner of theories will be bandied around about which absent players might have made them better, but the debate should not be about absent individuals, it should be about the reason most of them are absent – and that debate is about how the financial lure of IPL is threatening Test cricket, and Caribbean cricket in particular. There must be a window, a compromise, a solution. Instead what we have is a short-sighted flexing of muscles.
Apart from Kemar Roach, no West Indies bowler was able to build much pressure. England will feel stronger for having to answer a few questions and Tim Bresnan, who does not much look like a lucky mascot, which tend to be cuddlier and fluffier, now has 12 Test wins in 12. Mascot or not, it is about the identity of their third seamer at Trent Bridge that England’s own debate will most centre.
There were no 4am queues as there had been at Lord’s for the final day against India a year earlier but expectancy was high and there were officially 7,000 in the ground for a final day that many had assumed would not happen. West Indies had given England a fiery four overs on the fourth evening but they needed early wickets to stir the imagination a second time.
Roach, West Indies’ main hope, set things moving in his third over of the morning. Trott steered him deliberately through the slips for four, and had a similar outcome in mind from the next ball, but this time it gripped up the hill and Darren Sammy took a good catch to his left at second slip.They got them too: Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen removed with the new ball still hard. On each occasion, a West Indies fast bowler responded to a boundary by delivering something better.
Pietersen had fulsome strokeplay in mind to get England out of a tight corner. He had memories of a big hundred in Colombo to sustain him, and the adulation of IPL. It was not long before he was met by a debutant, Shannon Gabriel, and the temptation to break his nerve immediately must have been high.
Gabriel, a 24-year-old Trinidadian, dragged his third ball down short and wide and Pietersen pulled it haughtily to the midwicket boundary for four. The next ball was also short, but straighter, and Pietersen was cramped as he again sought out midwicket’s open spaces and succeeded only in bottom-edging to the wicketkeeper.
At 57 for 4, even though one of the wickets was the nightwatchman Anderson, England were under the cosh. But the wicket was still sound and England accepted opportunities to press ahead quickly. Cook kept England’s innings moving forward with several controlled drives and West Indies turned to Samuels’ off spin. It was delivered at a saunter with no suggestion that a Test was in the balance and Bell’s late cut in his first over brought up the 50 stand in only 12 overs.
Roach apart, West Indies’ attack offered little. Edwards was out of sorts, Gabriel’s accuracy wavered and Sammy lacked menace. Cook’s pull shot against Sammy, followed up by a crisp late cut against Samuels to bring up his fifty, smacked of restored England authority. England rustled up 121 runs in 28 overs in an enterprising morning’s batting with Cook, still to score at start of play, reaching his half-century in the penultimate over before the break.
Quite why Samuels was still bowling after lunch was a mystery. The idea that in the absence of Shane Shillingford, who took 10 wickets in his last Test, Samuels might spin them to victory was a Caribbean fairy story.
To turn to Roach was more appropriate but his threat had diminished. It was eight overs into the afternoon before Ian Bell advanced to drive Samuels for the first boundary of the session, but England had picked off 28 runs of the further 60 they needed in the meantime. Bell gloved a bouncer from Roach to fine leg for another boundary as victory became inevitable, Roach limped from the field at the end of a stout-hearted effort and it was not long before his team mates followed.