Joe Root’s maiden one-day international hundred helped England edge a nervy first series victory for almost seven months, against West Indies.
A fifth-wicket stand of 175 between Root (107) and Jos Buttler (99), England’s ODI highest in the Windies, carried the tourists to 303 for six.
But after a round-the-world odyssey which has brought mostly hassle since they won the 2013 Ashes in Durham last August, England’s mettle was tested one last time by Denesh Ramdin’s own brilliant first ODI hundred.
Dropped on five by James Tredwell at slip and 83 by captain Stuart Broad, he crunched nine fours in his 99-ball century – completed with his third six high over midwicket off Stephen Parry.
With 14 deliveries left, Ramdin (128) was looking increasingly likely to mug England after all.
But Tim Bresnan (three for 45) kept his cool to clean bowl the wicketkeeper-batsman and end the match with a wonderfully skilful inswinging yorker as the Windies were bowled out for 278 – handing England a 25-run success.
Root had earlier taken the first wicket in Windies’ chase, before leaving the field to nurse a thumb injury sustained with just a single to his name when he was hit by a delivery from Ravi Rampaul.
The young Yorkshireman stood firm, despite at times appearing in significant discomfort, to anchor England expertly at number four.
His 112-ball century was full of habitual deflections, especially fine on the off-side, and what he lacked in power he made up for by rarely missing a scoring opportunity. Buttler was characterisically more explosive, hitting seven fours and four sixes from 84 balls.
Buttler was characterisically more explosive, hitting seven fours and four sixes from 84 balls.
Both benefited from the DRS process. West Indies were convinced Sunil Narine had Root lbw on 23 but discovered, via ‘Hawkeye’, that the ball would have bounced over.
Then Buttler overturned a caught-behind decision on 22 off Marlon Samuels.
Openers Moeen Ali (55) and Michael Lumb made a brisk start, only for Dwayne Bravo (three for 60) to interrupt England’s progress after they had been put into bat.
Meanwhile, Australia’s Ryan Harris took the last two wickets as South Africa came within five overs of saving the third test on a dramatic day in which a third umpire decision came close to deciding the outcome of the match.
South Africa were bowled out for 265 as Australia won the series-deciding third test by 245 runs at Newlands yesterday, leaving their captain Graeme Smith to retire from international cricket with a defeat.
Not even a controversial third umpire decision could derail Australia’s victory charge, though they left it late in the day to force the win with Harris (four for 32) the hero.
The Proteas looked as though they would escape with a draw as they got within five overs of safety but Harris bowled out Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel to wrap up victory for the tourists.
Vernon Philander was not out on 51 after surviving a controversial moment with 16 overs remaining that left Australia seething when third umpire Richard Illingworth overturned a decision against him. Mitchell Johnson produced a fierce bouncer that clearly caught the right thumb of the South African, who was given out by on-field umpire Aleem Dar.
Philander reviewed the decision and it was overturned based on the view that the batsman’s hand was not on the bat handle.
Replays looked inconclusive and the Australians were seething, leading to an ugly verbal confrontation between touring captain Michael Clarke and Steyn. The victory gave Australia the series 2-1 and came in the wake of their 5-0 thrashing of England in the home Ashes series played earlier this year.