Tino Best and Denesh Ramdin's last-wicket heroics stunned England at Edgbaston yesterday, but were still powerless to permanently revive the rain-ravaged third Test.
After a 143-run partnership between record-breaking No 11 Best (95) and Ramdin (107 not out) was cancelled out by Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell's own century stand, a draw looms.
Once England's reply to West Indies' 426 was given substance by Pietersen (78) and Bell (76 not out) in a stumps total of 221 for five, this contest was headed down a blind alley.
There were nonetheless points of interest, topped by Best's highest score in Test history for any No 11.
Pietersen will also have derived satisfaction at signing off in style for the next month - thanks to his retirement from limited-overs cricket - although not as much as if he had gone on to a near run-a-ball 21st Test century, which appeared his for the taking by the time he edged Marlon Samuels to slip.
His and Bell's innings were accomplished, and significant after England stumbled to 49 for three, but bordered on the mundane in comparison with what preceded them.
In a mesmerising and hugely entertaining morning session, Andrew Strauss' world No 1s simply had no answer to Best and Ramdin.
The fast bowler, back in Test cricket after a three-year absence, hammered England morale with an exhibition of clean striking - and measured defence when necessary. His carefree approach and unheralded skill entirely belied his batting position, and brought him 14 fours and a six from 112 balls.
Best dominated the first 50 runs of his stand with Ramdin, whose share was just eight runs.
By the time the pair had 100 between them, Ramdin had redressed the balance a little - on his way to a 160-ball hundred that contained nine boundaries
Best, by contrast, marked his partner's achievement by immediately smashing Tim Bresnan high over long-on for six. It was the No 11 who had begun the remarkable turn of events by announcing himself with a series of resounding drives against Steven Finn and Graham Onions.
But his defence and effective avoidance of the short ball were sound too, and two forces for four off Graeme Swann also required impressive footwork.
England's prospects of pushing for an unlikely victory had nosedived from slim to non-existent.
Instead, the Windies could fleetingly just about hope for a consolation success in a series already lost - until Bell and Pietersen intervened with their partnership of 137.
Pietersen and Bell would provide further contributions of note, but the one unforgettable passage of play was over in a match that remains unlikely otherwise to last long in the memory.
* Press Association
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