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West Indians victorious in a tight finale

Christopher Martin-Jenkins

2 April 1998

AFTER 10 overs at the Kensington Oval yesterday afternoon the West Indies, chasing 267, were 83 for three and a tightly packed crowd had already shouted themselves hoarse. At the same stage England had been 21 for one. So cavalier was the response that the West Indies appeared to be under the impression that the second of the five one-day internationals was a 40-over game.

Carl Hooper and Stuart Williams played a steadier game in a stand of 132 which took their team to 211 for three in the 39th over but catches at midwicket in successive overs, the second a beauty low to Matthew Fleming's left, brought England back into the game with an outside chance. However, in a thrilling climax, the West Indies clinched victory by just one wicket off the penultimate ball, having needed 49 from the last 10 overs to level the series. When Phil Simmons fell leg-before to Fleming another tense finish seemed certain on a sultry evening.

A damp pitch following 24 hours of rain put paid to any notions of a record total overall but another marvellous innings by Nick Knight enabled England to set at least a reasonably demanding target in easing batting conditions.

Knight did exceptionally well to survive some lifting, seaming balls in the early overs and went on, with brief but sparkling assistance from Ben Hollioake and solid support, too, from Graham Thorpe's replacement, Mark Ramprakash, to the fifth major innings he has produced in only 18 one-day matches for England. The circumstances of this performance left no doubt that Knight is capable of resuming his Test career sooner rather than later.

To have made 90 off 107 balls against a demanding attack when batting conditions were far less in his favour than during his 122 on Sunday will have given him further encouragement after a winter in which he led the A tour of Kenya and Sri Lanka with success under the influential eyes of Graham Gooch and Mike Gatting.

Had he made the 10 additional runs he deserved yesterday he would have become only the fourth England batsman to have scored four one-day hundreds for England. Graham Gooch (8), David Gower (7), Allan Lamb and Robin Smith all played in over three times as many matches as Knight has so far.

Since his only other one-day fifty, against New Zealand last winter, was an innings of 84 not out, the lbw gained by Phil Simmons when he tried to work a straight ball to leg in the 36th over was the first time he had been out between 50 and 100 in a 50-over international.

He scored runs in a full arc from third man to fine leg, which is why he is such a difficult man to bowl to in one-day cricket. The timing of his driving, often from well down the pitch to fast bowlers, was exceptional, but he was equally quick to pounce on anything short, pulling Walsh over square leg for six during a stand with Hollioake jnr which added 50 runs from 37 balls.

Hollioake's innings was nipped in the bud thanks to an excellent caught-and-bowled by Franklyn Rose. A confident hook off Ambrose and two of his hallmark, lazy drives though mid-on off Rose had brought Hollioake three fours in his 15 balls.

Alec Stewart was beaten frequently before slicing a drive to backward point in the 10th over, and Graeme Hick was bowled off his pads third ball by Rawl Lewis. But Ramprakash was again a stabilising influence until he skied a sweep. Knight's departure five overs later left the specialist hitters with plenty to do in the last 15 overs, but they delivered, taking 96 off the final 10.

Mark Ealham led the way with strong hitting in the extra cover and midwicket areas, making 45 from 37 balls, and Dougie Brown and Fleming did their bit too, Fleming also scoring at faster than a run a ball. Robert Croft hit two fine shots through extra cover in the final over to give he and his fellow bowlers a chance.

Clayton Lambert and Philo Wallace, however, were in no mood to give them any, launching the innings with a volley of mighty strokes.

These two and Brian Lara savaged the inconsistent Dean Headley for 68 off seven overs as Hollioake persisted with his two openers through 15 overs in which the West Indies reached 106 for three - well ahead of the required run rate.

On the way, however, Wallace drove low to mid-off and Lambert was brilliantly run out by Knight from backward point. Lara, having hit 24 off 19 balls, forced in the air to cover. This left Hooper and Williams with plenty of overs but not many wickets to play with. On a pitch now helping no-one they kept cool and took their team most of the way.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 02 Apr1998 - 10:32