Second test: West Indies v England, Queens' Park Oval, Trinidad

Reports from the Jamaica Gleaner

5-9 February 1998

Day 3: England in driver's seat

Tony Becca , Senior Sport Editor

CRICKET; Port of Spain: England's belief that they can win the 1998 Cable and Wireless series against the West Indies may not be, as so many West Indians think it is, a figment of captain Mike Atherton's imagination - not after yesterday's performance at Queen's Park Oval. With four matches to come, the result of this second Test, if they stay on top and go on to win it, may not be enough to hand the tourists their first victory in the Caribbean since 1968. In fact, with all of two days to come, with the fans around the Oval saying that whatever they can do, Brian Lara can do, this contest may be far from over.

On a bright and beautiful day however, on a pitch which apparently suits them more than it does the West Indies, England dominated the West Indies and took a giant step towards winning the Test match and drawing first blood in the series.

At stumps on the third day, the score board read, England 214 and 219 for four, the West Indies 191, and with the tourists boasting a lead of 242 with six wickets in hand the odds are stacked against the home team. England's dominance started early in the morning when the West Indies, resuming on 177 for seven were brushed aside for the addition of only 14 runs in 31 minutes and 6.1 overs as England, thanks to a career best eight for 53 off 16.1 overs by pacer Angus Fraser, snatched a first innings lead of 23 runs.

After finishing the second day with figures of five for 47 off 13 overs - his ninth five wicket haul in a Test innings and his fourth against the West Indies in 13 Test matches, the 32 year old Middlesex star whose previous best was eight for 75 against the West Indies at Kensington Oval four years ago, wrapped up the Windies innings with three wickets for six runs in 3.1 overs.

The first to go, in the opening over of the morning, was Benjamin who was bowled offstump with the score board unchanged; the second was Nixon McLean who drove a simple catch to Andy Caddick at mid off and left for two at 190 for nine; and after scoring a useful 31 while standing in the breach for 126 minutes and 83 deliveries, the third was Ambrose who patted a low full toss back to the bowler.

At that stage, the contest was nicely balanced. The first surprise came when Lara opened the attack with McLean from the south - the Pavilion End, and with Benjamin from the north - the Press Box End.

In the first over, Stewart hooked McLean easily to the backward square-leg boundary and then drove sweetly through extra-cover, and after both batsmen stroked the ball fluently in Benjamin's first, Atherton eased his left-foot forward and drove the 'prodigal son' effortlessly through the covers.

Within a few overs, Ambrose replaced Benjamin and Benjamin replaced McLean, and just before lunch, taken at 57 without loss, Courtney Walsh and Carl Hooper replaced them both. It did not matter to either batsman. The bowling, full length or too short, was ordinary, and in the over after lunch when Atherton went onto his toad and hit Walsh off his hip to the long-leg boundary it appeared as if the England opening pair would have batted out the day.

Thanks to Walsh who finished a good day's work with figures of two for 44 off 21 overs, it did not.

In three overs of hostile pace in mid afternoon, the former captain produced two vicious deliveries - one which hit Stewart on the left elbow and one which bowled Atherton for 31 at 91 for one. The one which hit Stewart kicked sharply off a length. The one which cut down Atherton did not bounce as high as the batsmen expected and in going for a hook, he knocked the ball, off the bottom edge, onto the middle stump.

John Crawley looked vulnerable to both Walsh and Ambrose especially against the short-pitched deliveries, but apart from when Stewart, on 57 at 104 for one, edged a no ball from Ambrose to wicketkeeper David Williams, it was all England up to tea their dominance confirmed minutes before the interval when Stewart welcomed the return of Benjamin with a drive so straight it was an inch or two away from ripping out one of the stumps at the non-striker's end.

After the interval, McLean, bowling faster than any West Indian over the past two years or so, led the West Indies bid to get back into the game and threatened to open the gate when he trapped Crawley leg before wicket for 22 at 143 for two, and when he had Stewart caught by Hooper for 73 at 148 for three the first slip going to his left to catch a ball delivered so fast that after flying off the edge of the bat, it went through wicketkeeper David Williams' gloves and onto his head before lobbing behind him.

The threat was short-lived however, for although Walsh returned to take care of Nasser Hussain 10 overs from the close when the batsman scooped a yorker back to him, the West Indies failed to capitalise on McLean's burst and were left with a fight on their hands.

Day 4: Delicate balance at Queen's Park

Tony Becca, Senior Sport Editor

CRICKET: Port of Spain: England's dream of winning the 1998 Cable and Wireless series against the West Indies, their first in the Caribbean since 1968 and their first anywhere since 1973, took on an air of reality at Queen's Park Oval yesterday.

At stumps on the fourth and penultimate day of the second Test in the six-match contest, the scoreboard read, England 214 and 258, the West Indies 191 and 181 for five, and although it can still go either way, with the home team needing 101 to win, with the tourists only five wickets away from victory and with pacer Angus Fraser and left-arm spinner Phil Tufnell preening themselves on a pitch of uneven bounce, the odds are in England's favour.

In a match in which the fortunes have swayed from side to side however, the West Indies, who started the morning instyle and who were going great guns at tea, are far from dead. Carl Hooper, on 40 and batting beautifully in the circumstances, is still there, and so too David Williams who thrilled his hometowm fans with a lovely mixture of solid defence and confident attacking strokes while scoring 36 not out. Set a victory target of 282 runs with 73 overs and one day in which to get them, the West Indies were 104 for two at the interval with Stuart Williams on 58 and smashing the ball to all parts of the Oval, and Hooper on 13 and stroking the ball sweetly on either side of the wicket.

The West Indies, in fact, looked like easing to a comfortable victory when, in the first over after the break, Hooper went into his toes and drove Dean Headley to the extra cover boundary, and when, two deliveries later, Stuart Williams slipped his left-foot forward and stroked the pacer to the wide long off boundary.

In a brilliant counter attack however, England, through Fraser and Tufnell, grabbed three wickets for four runs in four overs and suddenly the hunter had become the hunted.

With the cheers ringing around the ground in appreciation of Hooper's perfectly timed drives, Williams clipped Fraser off his legs straight to John Crawley at backward short leg to make it 120 for three. It was 121 for four when Shivnarine Chanderpaul swung across a delivery from Tufnell, top edged a simple catch to Graham Thorpe in the covers and departed for zero. And it was 124 for five when Adams, on the backfoot, edged Fraser to Alec Stewart at second slip.

At that stage, the ship was sinking and only a defiant, unbroken partnership of 57 in 23 overs between Hooper who, with the team in trouble, denied his natural aggressive instincts for the cause, and a determined David Williams kept the Windies afloat and left them with a chance of winning a match which, depending on Hooper and David Williams, probably even Ambrose and Nixon McLean, may sway one final time.

Starting the day on 219 for four and with a lead of 242, England appeared heading for a commanding total before the West Indies, fired by a some brilliant bowling by veteran pacer Ambrose and then by some superb stroke play by Stuart Williams, pegged them back and positioned themselves for a race to victory.

Bowling as if to prove a point to the two selectors who believed that he was finished and argued against his selection, the 34-year-old Ambrose ripped through the England batting to finish with five for 52 off 19.5 overs - all five wickets, at a cost of only 16 runs off eight overs, coming in his morning's brilliance.

Batting as if to prove his quality to the majority of West Indians who believe he should have been long forgotten, Stuart Williams rose to the occasion and scored 62 glorious runs off 120 deliveries in an innings studded with 11 sparkling boundaries as he drove, cut and hooked with relish.

With England threatening to bat themselves into an impregnable position and the dream of winning his first Test match at home as captain of the West Indies looking as if it would not come true, Brian Lara, unlike the start of the innings when he handed the new ball to his faster bowlers Nixon McLean and Kenneth Benjamin, went for his big guns and in 80 minutes, in 15.5 overs, the England second innings was history - their six remaining wickets falling for a mere 39 runs.

In ticking off his 19th five-wicket haul in a Test innings and moving his number of wickets to 316 in his 76th Test match, Ambrose removed Adam Hollioake - caught by Lara at first slip for 12 at 228 for five, trapped Jack Russell leg before wicket with a creeper for eight at 238 for six, and after Walsh had pocketed the prized scalp of Graham Thorpe - caught by Lara at first slip for 39 at 239 for seven, he proceeded to get rid of Andy Caddick - caught by wicketkeeper David Williams for zero at 239 for eight, Fraser - caught by Hooper at second slip for four at 246 for nine, and Tufnell - caught by David Williams.

The West Indies started their chase for victory confidently with Sherwin Campbell stroking Headley to the thirdman boundary in the opening over, and although he went for 10 at 10 for one caught by Stewart at second slip off Headley, there was no cause for alarm - not with Lara joining Williams and entertaining his adoring fans with some crisp strokes.

The first sign of trouble for the Windies came when, in Fraser's second over, the left-handed Lara attempted to run a widish delivery past gully and edged a catch to wicketkeeper Russell at 68 for two. Even then, it appeared a foregone conclusion while Stuart Williams and Hooper were together.

Day 5: Windies one up!

Tony Becca, Senior Sport Editor

Port of Spain: The West Indies grabbed the early lead in the six match Cable and Wireless series with a thrilling three wicket victory over England in the second Test at Queen's Park Oval yesterday.

Paced by a brilliant sixth-wicket partnership of 129 in 220 minutes and 49 overs between the elegant Carl Hooper and the diminutive David Williams, who contributed a fluent and career-best 65, the West Indies marched to victory 22 minutes after lunch.

To the delight of the cheering fans, hungry for a West Indies win after losses in Pakistan, Hooper danced down the pitch and drove left-arm spinner Phil Tufnell all along the grass to the long-off boundary for an undefeated 94 to finish the match.

Final scores: England, after winning the toss and electing to bat, 214 and 258; the West Indies 191 and 282 for seven.

As the West Indies ticked off their seventh victory in 16 Test matches against England at the Oval, they did so in a manner which left the fans singing their praises and predicting that they are on the way back.

Apart from Curtley Ambrose, who sent England crashing from 219 for four to 258 with his magnificent five for 16 on the fourth morning, kudos go to Hooper, who joined the action on the fourth afternoon with his team fighting for control at 68 for two, and to David Williams, who joined Hooper at the crease with the Windies in dire straits.

When play resumed with the West Indies on 181 for five and in search of 101 to win, the odds were in England's favour. Victory depended on Hooper, 40 not out, David Williams 36 not out, and blessed with a little luck - they delivered.

The first slice of luck came when David Williams drove a half volley from Angus Fraser back to the bowler and the big pacer failed to hang on to the catch. Then at 206 for five, when England took the second new ball, David Williams, then on 45, edged Fraser's first delivery down the legside, where a diving Jack Russell failed to come up with the catch.

Apart from England's many desperate shouts for leg before wicket and a couple of edges by David Williams which flew wide of slips, Hooper and Williams competently handled all the English bowlers threw at them - and they did so with lovely stroke play. But with eight minutes to lunch and victory only 29 runs away, Williams edged Dean Headley to Graham Thorpe at first slip and walked away to a standing ovation.

The hero of Queen's Park Oval, however, was Hooper - the Man of the Match, the man who looked at the situation at the fall of James Adam with victory 158 runs away and stamped his class on the proceedings. His innings lasted 350 minutes, during which he faced 203 deliveries and struck 10 boundaries.

As usual, almost every one of his boundaries were classic, well timed strokes, including a lovely drive out of pads when Fraser attacked him with the second new ball. There were others which demonstrated Hooper's class and his no-nonsense mood especially when England, after removing Williams and taking care of Ambrose at 257 for seven, made a desperate bid for victory.

Many fans will long remember a backfoot pull to midwicket when a faster delivery from Tufnell dropped an inch or two short of a good length.

Then there was a lofted drive to the long-on boundary when he chipped to a flighted delivery from Tufnell and, probably the most arrogant of all, the one which must have stopped England from dreaming - a pull through midwicket off Headley.

Source: The Jamaica Gleaner

Contributed by CricInfo Management, and reproduced with permission

Date-stamped : 10 Feb1998 - 22:21