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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 September, 2004, 18:36 GMT 19:36 UK
England fluff their lines at the last
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent at The Oval

England were denied the climax they wanted to a memorable summer by an outrageous ninth wicket partnership of 71 between Courtney Browne and Ian Bradshaw.

I have never seen Lara so animated - and I have twice seen him break the record for the highest individual score in Test cricket!
This was not a high-scoring classic, but given the time of year and the chill in the air, it was a much better final than we dared hope for.

What must have delighted West Indians was the noticeable improvement in determination and commitment from their team to the one that was humiliated here in the Test series.

It was an excellent toss for Brian Lara to win - not merely because of the conditions, but because nine of their last 11 one-day victories had come through batting second.

I noticed that Lara was animated when he spoke to me after the toss, and he was nothing short of inspirational in the field.

Bradshaw celebrates victory
Bradshaw finished a thrilling match in fine style
One wonders whether or not the Test series might have followed a different course if his team had fielded as energetically as this, and the lower order shown such discipline.

Vikram Solanki again fell to a disappointing stroke for four, but it was always going to be a struggle for the batsmen and, within 20 overs England were 84-3.

This brought in Andrew Flintoff to a deafening reception but he had scored only three when Wavell Hinds presented him with a stiff loosener.

Flintoff hammered it off the middle of his mighty bat only for Lara to take a breathtaking, brilliant catch one-handed at grass height to his left.

I have never seen Lara so animated - and I have twice seen him break the record for the highest individual score in Test cricket!

He jumped about, unable to contain his joy, and he took two further catches before running out Marcus Trescothick for an excellent 104.

He had featured in the only stand of any note - 63 with Ashley Giles - and the general feeling was that 218 might not have been such an easy target after all, so long as England bowled well.

On a day of brilliance in the field, Strauss took probably the best catch
In fact, it was a scrappy start with Darren Gough - who had a particularly bad day - spraying the ball all over the place.

Two outstanding catches then set West Indies back on their heels.

Solanki took a two-handed catch above his head to dismiss Hinds for three.

And on a day of brilliance in the field, Strauss took probably the best catch when he flung himself impossibly far to his right - his weak side - at slip to dismiss Ramnaresh Sarwan.

Gayle fell caught and bowled as he tried to pull Harmison for 23, and West Indies were 49-3.

Batting with an injured elbow, Lara struggled away before edging Flintoff for 14, and England then knew the game was theirs for the taking.

Bravo, Ryan Hinds and Powell all followed, and when Chanderpaul was caught by Vaughan off Collingwood for 47, all England had to do was ensure that they did not relax their grip.

But from needing 81 to win, Browne and Bradshaw battled away, declining an offer for bad light, until Bradshaw drove Wharf to the point boundary to win the game with seven balls to spare.

It was sheer theatre but England finished the final act out of the spotlight.




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