Andrew Flintoff grabbed a hat-trick to lead England to a 26-run victory over the West Indies on Friday and a first ever one-day international series triumph in the Caribbean.
Flintoff claimed his hat-trick when he removed Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul and Sulieman Benn off successive balls in the 27th over, before finishing with career-best figures of five wickets for 19 runs from five overs.
His spell swung the match decisively, as England bowled the West Indies out for 146 in 28 overs in a match reduced to a 29-over-a-side clash after rain delayed the start of the fifth and final game at the Beausejour Stadium by four hours.
The result meant England won the series 3-2.
“It has been a long hard tour and to come out at the end with something is pretty special,” said England skipper Andrew Strauss, whose side lost the Test series. “We would have liked to have won the Test series — we played some good cricket, but kept coming out with nothing.”
Strauss also paid tribute to Flintoff, who has struggled with injury over the winter.
“Freddie has had a tough tour, but he showed his quality today. That is why he is one of the best bowlers in the world because under pressure he can deliver,” Strauss said.
West Indies captain Chris Gayle said he was disappointed with the result, especially after his side had thrown away the first match in Guyana when their coach John Dyson embarrassingly miscalculated the Duckworth-Lewis ruling.
“The Test series was very important to us. It means we have turned a bit of a corner, but we still have a long way to go,” Gayle said.
A late flourish from Paul Collingwood and Matt Prior helped England to reach 172 for five off their 29 overs.
Collingwood made 35 not out from 31 balls and Prior scored 25 not out from 25 balls to pull England out of a wobble with an unbroken stand of 60 from 49 balls for the sixth wicket.
England stumbled to 112 for five in the 21st over, following an 80-run stand between Kevin Pietersen and Ravi Bopara.
Pietersen hit the top score of a run-a-ball 48 and opener Bopara gathered 44 from 49 balls before they were two of four wickets that fell in the space of 33 balls.
Pietersen was out in controversial circumstances when Daren Sammy claimed a catch even though TV replays suggested the ball wasn’t taken cleanly.
James Anderson then gave England a bright start when Gayle edged his third ball to second slip and the West Indies captain was dismissed for a duck.
England continued to make the breakthroughs and the West Indies slumped to 69 for four in the 15th over with Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul all back in the pavilion.
But England were held up by a stand of 55 from 59 balls between Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard.
Stuart Broad had Bravo caught at square cover in the 24th over for 33 off 46 balls, the West Indies’ top score, and Anderson had Pollard caught inside the long-on boundary in the next over for 30 off 31 balls.