Fifth one-day international, St Lucia: England 172-5 (29 overs) beat West Indies 146 (28 overs) by 26 runs
By Jamie Lillywhite
England leant on Flintoff yet again to seal an historic victory
Andrew Flintoff took a hat-trick as England achieved their first one-day series victory in the West Indies with a 26-run win in the deciding game.
In a match reduced to 29 overs per side, Kevin Pietersen (48) and Ravi Bopara (44) led England to 172-5.
West Indies were on the back foot after Chris Gayle departed for a duck.
And Flintoff removed Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul and Sulieman Benn with successive balls to finish with 5-19 as the home side were all out for 146.
It was a jubilant finale to a long winter for England and their 3-2 series win provided consolation for Test and one-day series defeats in India before Christmas and a 1-0 reverse in the Test series in the Caribbean.
Flintoff failed again with the bat but underlined his importance to the team with his magnificent bowling effort, and his hat-trick was the first by an England player in an overseas one-day match.
The start was delayed for four hours at the Beausejour Stadium, with the umpires deciding extra mopping up was needed just as the captains were about to toss up for a 33 overs match.
When the patient crowd was finally rewarded with some action, England lost skipper Andrew Strauss to the first ball of the second over as Ravi Rampaul made an immediate impact in his first one-day international for over a year.
But Pietersen and Bopara showed positive intent, with Pietersen hammering imperious drives through the covers off successive Fidel Edwards deliveries as 35 came from the six overs of the compulsory powerplay.
Their half-century stand came at a rate of a run per ball as Pietersen thumped a slower ball from Rampaul straight down the ground for six and Bopara also clearing the ropes with a pull off local boy Darren Sammy.
The pair were eventually separated in highly controversial fashion after Pietersen attempted to square cut a ball from left-arm spinner Benn which bounced more than he expected.
It flew to backward point where Sammy, the first St Lucian to play for the West Indies, dived forward to try and take the catch.
Pietersen walked off slowly as West Indies celebrated but TV replays showed the ball had deflected off Sammy's wrist, onto his chest and down onto the ground before he finally completed the catch.
After that setback, four wickets fell for 24 in five and a half overs, with Bopara's enterprising innings ending when he top-edged a flick to leg and skied a catch to the keeper.
Owais Shah gave long-on catching practice and Flintoff's poor run with the bat continued when, after collecting three singles, he chipped tamely to midwicket and Chanderpaul, whose fielding commitment was questioned by Pietersen recently, took a superb one-handed diving catch.
England badly needed a partnership and Matt Prior, though struggling to time the ball at first, added crucial runs with Paul Collingwood, who hit a six over mid-wicket as 23 came in the two batting powerplay overs.
Collingwood brought up the 50 stand from 45 balls in the final over with a deft glance for four as he finished unbeaten on 35.
Pietersen gave England impetus before falling in debatable fashion
Having put England in at the start of the game, the onus was on Gayle to justify that decision with the bat.
But the West Indies skipper, who hit eight sixes in a stunning 80 from 43 balls in the third match of the series, fished at a good one from Anderson third ball and was comfortably caught by Flintoff at second slip.
Flintoff was soon given the ball and picked up two wickets in his initial burst, firstly Ramnaresh Sarwan, whose fluent 23 ended when he backed away to one that bounced just that touch more and got a thin edge through to keeper Prior.
The Lancashire all-rounder produced speeds approaching 90mph despite the placid surface and was rewarded again when Lendl Simmons recklessly top-edged to mid-on.
Dwayne Bravo did his best to lift the scoring rate, with one astonishing forcing shot off the back foot against Dimitri Mascarenhas flying straight over long-off for six.
But Collingwood chipped in with the key wicket of Chanderpaul, who top-edged a pull straight to substitute fielder Ian Bell at deep square-leg and the requirement was 104 from 89 balls with only six wickets remaining.
The home side chose overs 23 and 24 for their batting powerplay, and Pollard sliced his second six, recording the fifty stand as the Windies dragged themselves back on terms.
However, Bravo sliced to point and from the first ball of the next over Pollard drove down the ground where Collingwood was perfectly positioned to take a safe catch at long-on.
Still the occasional boundary offered a glimmer of hope, with 33 needed from 16, but the redoubtable Flintoff yorked Denesh Ramdin to claim the seventh wicket.
Rampaul fell to a full toss and Benn was beaten all ends up as the formidable Flintoff claimed his best international figures.
The match ended quickly when Sammy's luck ended trying to pinch a second run, and England were finally able to enjoy themselves.
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