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Sarwan hits century but Windies' woes continue

By Ted Corbett

BIRMINGHAM, JULY 31. This summer is bringing a golden harvest for Andrew Flintoff, a character out of a comic strip as he scores thunderous runs like his 167 on Friday, scoops up vital wickets, and snatches tough catches.

He was at it again today, first upsetting Brian Lara on the edge of 10,000 runs, bowling out Ramnaresh Sarwan for 139 when Sarwan had 200 in his sights and catching Pedro Collins. So the second Test headed England's way while West Indies torture continued.

We woke to warm grey skies, an English version of summer, but there was the prospect of Lara reaching 10,000 runs and completing his 27th Test century and so there seemed to be sunshine on every horizon.

Sadly, it was not to be. He got himself into a childish temper when he lost a ball from Flintoff and was almost yorked. The next ball he flashed as it moved away and was caught in the slips. He and Sarwan had added 209 for the third wicket, a record at Edgbaston.

What a pity Lara's innings ended the way it did. He cannot be dull whereas his replacement Shivnarine Chanderpaul is a fidgety, ungainly soul, an amusing batsman since he gets into a tangle of legs and arms but not to be compared to Lara.

So when Michael Vaughan, the England captain, dropped Chanderpaul at short mid wicket right in front of his face, it was not patriotism but a wish that he might not hang around too long that made us all sigh.

Vaughan admits he spends too little time on his fielding and he was clearly worrying about another problem but, although I never met the lady, I am sure Geoff Boycott's mum would have caught it.

The third day began with a flurry of shots. Lara hit his first ball straight so hard that it rattled past the bowler Matthew Hoggard at express speed and his second to mid-wicket before a fielder could offer token chase.

Sarwan unleashed an extra cover drive for four so that a quarter of an hour brought 25 runs before the English bowlers, and James Anderson in particular, settled and allowed the ball to swing.

Hoggard was expensive so after five overs Vaughan called up Flintoff. His third ball must have been lost in the background of the pavilion but Lara kept it out only to lose his cool as if someone might be to blame.

Flintoff fired the next ball across him and Lara edged it to Graham Thorpe, who had just dropped a hard chance off Sarwan. Thus Lara was out for 95, 20 short of 10,000 but quicker than Sunil Gavaskar, Steve Waugh or Allan Border and, as we have noted before, infinitely more daring, more polished and a quicker scorer.

By lunch Sarwan and Chanderpaul had reached 288 which meant West Indies still needed 78 to avoid the follow-on. Flintoff returned at the city end and Sarwan played on for 139, his sixth Test century.

At 24 this neat batsman has 15 years to add to his 3,378 runs which may take him far beyond 10,000 although, as Sachin Tendulkar has found, life gets more difficult after 15 years at the crease.

Chanderpaul pottered on but Dwayne Bravo was bowled round his forward stroke by Ashley Giles, Hoggard had Ridley Jacobs caught at slip for nought and Giles got Chanderpaul caught at silly point so that three wickets had fallen for one run in 15 balls and West Indies gone from safety to acute peril in three overs 43 runs short of avoiding the follow-on.

At 334 Flintoff rounded off his all-round performance by casually grabbing a catch off Pedro Collins to give Giles his third wicket or 12 in his last three.

Not bad for a man ridiculed as a defensive no-hoper recently. Four wickets had fallen for 11 in 50 balls; Omari Banks was caught behind and Corey Collymore lbw to Giles.

Decent bowling, bad batting and the luck that runs with confident winners meant six wickets had fallen for 13 runs in 63 balls so that England had a comfortable margin of 231 and a bat again.

England was on track for a win that owed most to the new strength through joy provided by Flintoff. The sun also came out to celebrate.

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