THE drama was never going to be as frenetic and intense as the unforgettable hour at Sabina but there was hardly a dull moment on the opening day of the inserted second Cable & Wireless series at the QueenÕs Park Oval, yesterday. You dared not look away in the certainty that, if you did, you would miss something.
The bald scores - England 175 for eight off 89 overs after winning the toss and a mere 15 boundaries - are entirely misleading.
The pitch did not have the same frequent limb-threatening devil that brought the first Test to its shambolic conclusion after an hour a week earlier. But there was more than enough in it to encourage the fast bowlers and scarcely an over passed, in which the outside edge of a hesitant, searching bat wasnÕt passed or a batsman didnÕt have to contend with the variable bounce and sideways movement for which the Oval surface has long been infamous.
There were three missed catches that prevented the West Indies from finishing off their opponents on the day, a few blows to body and glove and one fearful knock on Dean HeadleyÕs helmet late in the day from Kenny Benjamin. There was the inevitable controversy, involving the run out decision against Adam Hollioake that was shown to be erroneous only after third umpire Clyde Cumberbatch had confirmed it on his first look at the inconclusive replay from square-on.
And there was, above all else, an exhibition of magnificent fast bowling that confirmed Curtly AmbroseÕs pre-series warning that, 34 or not, he is not through by any means yet.
Leaving the Doubting Thomases - and the Doubting Tonys, for that matter - dumbfounded and EnglandÕs batsmen in a bind, the great and gangling Antiguan pounded in for 20 overs in four spells in the heat and humidity. At the end, he had three wickets for 17.
Far from flattering, they were figures that did not do him full justice. He needed another two wickets for that - and still has the chance for them this morning.
Throughout, he was, as they say these days, in the batsmanÕs face, sometimes literally.
He wasted no more than a dozen of his 120 deliveries and was as quick and accurate and cunning at the end of the extended day of six hours and 40 minutes as he was at the beginning.
His fellow Antiguan and close friend, Benjamin, was as impressive in his own way. The selectors shrewdly picked him here to do a job in conditions they knew would suit him and he didnÕt betray their confidence.
He passed the bat in his 20 overs as much as - indeed, probably more than Ambrose - and it was his unbroken spell of ten overs in the hour and 10 minutes after lunch that unmasked the camouflage of a steady start for England who were 70 for one at the interval after Mike Atherton chose to bat first.
His reward was only one wicket but it was crucial, Alec Stewart Ibw on the backfoot to a sharp break-back immediately on reaching his 50. It was a courageous performance by a seasoned batsman with 71 Tests and 4 710 runs to his name and only vice-captain Nasser Hussain, unbeaten 44 at close, showed the resilience after that to defy Ambrose, Benjamin and company.
Courtney Walsh had 22 steady overs but was somewhat below his best while Nixon McLeanÕs first bowl in Test cricket, after ten overs, was fast and hostile. He repeatedly discomfited Stewart in his opening burst of six overs but lacked accuracy, repeatedly allowing the batsmen to watch balls pass them well wide of offstump. He should have learnt a lot from watching Ambrose.
Ambrose had to wait until his second spell, and his seventh over, switching from the southern to the northern end, for his first wicket. It was Atherton who succumbed in the course of the kind of testing over his dreaded adversary has produced so often on this, his favourite ground, and did again throughout the remainder of the day. The England captain edged into Brian LaraÕs lap at first slip, the 11th time he had fallen to Ambrose in the 16 Tests they have played against each other.
It took another hour and three quarters and three spilled catches before Benjamin made the vital break by removing Stewart half-hour into the second session.
By then, he had been put down by Lara, low to his left at first slip, off Walsh when 40 and John Crawley had survived a leg-side deflection to the diving wicket-keeper David Williams and a two-handed catch that headed straight for LaraÕs lap only for Carl Hooper to palm it away.
By tea, Crawley, who spent nearly two-and-a-half hours and 100 balls over 17, had found Stuart WilliamsÕ lap at third slip off another Ambrose special, a lifter over off-stump, and the left-handed Graham Thorpe had fallen to a shocking lapse in concentration with an edged cut into WilliamsÕ gloves off the first ball of HooperÕs final fill-in over of off-spin before the interval.
HollioakeÕs confused and contentious run out and Jack RussellÕs edge to third slip that gave McLean his first Test wicket meant England had lost five wickets for 39 either side of tea.
It took HussainÕs courage, in spite of lashes to head and body, and that of Headley, who spent an hour with him before Ambrose went round the wicket and, first ball, had him caught behind off a snorter that brushed his gloves, to ensure that England wouldnÕt be out before sundown.
HollioakeÕs dismissal added the spice of controversy to the dayÕs proceedings. Responding late to HussainÕs suicidal call for a single to Shivnarine Chanderpaul at cover, he was several lengths short of his ground when Williams broke the stumps from the return.
Immediately, umpire Venkataraghavan, the former Indian Test player, raised his finger on appeal. While the West Indies players hugged and high-fived in celebration, Hollioake went up to Venkat and told him he had seen WilliamsÕ dislodge the bail before collecting the ball.
Venkat quickly negated his original decision and signalled for the help of the third umpire, Clyde Cumberbatch, sitting in the top tier of the Gerry Gomez media centre. After one look at the side-on TV replay, Cumberbatch pressed the red button and Hollioake had to go.
Less than five minutes later, the magnified TV replay from straight down the pitch and visible to millions of viewers the world over showed HollioakeÕs suspicions to be correct.
It was yet another of the many incidents that would have been the talk of the town overnight. Now, itÕs up to the West Indies batsmen to do their stuff.
Reports by Tony Cozier
PORT-OF-SPAIN Š As has become the unacceptable custom, the West Indies are depending on their bowlers to keep them in contention in the second Cable & Wireless Test Š with bat as much as ball.
They ended the second day yesterday 177 for seven, 37 behind, only the fast bowlers remaining, and Curtly Ambrose once more fighting defiantly to ensure that England's eventual advantage is not significant in a low-scoring match.
The character of the dry, grassy pitch that posed the batsmen so many problems with its uneven bounce and sharp movement on the first day and well into the second appears to be gradually changing.
As the ball became softer, it behaved more and more predictably and at slower pace. Bowlers could find their work over the next couple of days harder than they have on the first two.
The West Indies lost ground mainly through a spirited performance by Angus Fraser, England's lumbering giant fast-medium bowler who made a memorable return to Test cricket at the age of 32 after two years on the outside.
First as overnight batsman, straight-batted and courageous, he shook off the effects of a crack on the helmet to the first ball of the day from Kenny Benjamin to stay an hour-and-a-half with Nasser Hussain in a ninth-wicket partnership of 42.
It carried England from an unsatisfactory 175 for eight at the start to their workable, if not comfortable, total of 214.
Fraser then twice intervened with his controlled seam bowling, delivered from a high, purposeful action, to leave the West Indies innings in the familiar predicament of 135 for six and dependent on the little wicket-keeper David Williams, Ambrose and the three other fast bowlers to eek out as many as they could.
His returns at the end of the day were five for 47 Š and what a five: Stuart Williams and Carl Hooper in his first spell, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Brian Lara and Jimmy Adams in successive overs in his second.
Dean Headley made the early break. Sherwin Campbell, never settled after one Andy Caddick delivery flew over his head and wicket-keeper Jack Russell's too, fell to an inside-edged catch off a sharp in-cutter in the 11th over.
Lara, accorded the mandatory royal reception from a crowd of 8 000 comfortably spread around the Oval, and Williams had settled in promisingly when Fraser first undermined the innings.
Pounding in on his angled, heavy-footed approach from the northern end, he induced an awkward, unnecessary pull from Williams that spiralled from the top-edge into captain Mike Atherton's grateful clutches at mid-off.
In his next over, he found a wicked ally in the pitch to dismiss Carl Hooper. Deviating sharply from off a good length, he passed the startled batsman outside his legs to crash into leg-stump.
For the next hour and 40 minutes, on either side of tea, Lara, with a mixture of daring aggression and studied defence, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul encouraged West Indian optimism with a left-handed partnership of 79.
With his quick eye and dazzling footwork, Lara made the previously capricious surface look like a featherbed.
He and Chanderpaul were quick to pounce on the loose ball, repeatedly pulling the wayward Caddick in a spell that yielded 27 from three overs and swung the balance of power.
Lara, as always, took his chances and twice edged past grasping fingers in the slips and drove unconvincingly over cover. Otherwise, there were crisp, clean strokes that earned him five of his seven fours.
Chanderpaul was more careful, as both had to be against the accurate left-arm spin of Phil Tufnell who occupied the northern end for 21 consecutive overs spread over the last three hours.
The attack on Caddick prompted Fraser's return and he responded by removing the left-handed trio of Chanderpaul, Lara and Adams in successive overs as the West Indies declined from 126 for three to 135 for six.
The first two fell to flailing strokes, Adams to no stroke at all.
Chanderpaul, driving, edged to first slip, as he had earlier done through the vacant third slip off Caddick. He is not one who usually surrenders his hand to such extravagance and he trudged off the ground in deep disappointment.
In his next over, his tenth, Lara attempted to whip him through midwicket, wasn't quite to the pitch and the movement off the seam carried the ball onto the top-edge. Once more, Atherton, at mid-off, was waiting to pouch the lobbed catch.
The captain has repeatedly stressed the need for partnerships and the importance of preventing wickets tumbling in a cluster.
After 2 3/4-hours, and 100 balls, in the middle, he would have been as conscious as Chanderpaul that the chance of building a sizeable total had been wasted, especially after Adams, completely misjudging the line in Fraser's next over, was plainly LBW.
As they had to do more than once in Pakistan, Williams and Ambrose, Mutt and Jeff, Little and Large, combined for the next 50 minutes to stop the rot and put on 32 precious runs.
Williams didn't make it through to the end. Escaping two sharp chances, he made 16 before he was Ibw, missing a sweep at Tufnell.
Ambrose would also have gone before the close but for Russell's fumbled stumping attempt off Tufnell when he had made nine.
Unfazed by the escape, he remained to be unbeaten 20 when umpires Steve Bucknor and Srinivas Venkataraghavan ended play in perfectly playable sunshine with one over left.
Ambrose's partner was Kenny Benjamin whose contribution has already been significant, gaining the final two wickets in the morning to edged catches as reward for the undeserved bad luck that limited him to just one on the first day.
On the third day, he, Ambrose and the other bowlers have a vital job ahead, first with bat, then with ball.
Day 3: ENGLAND IN CHARGE
PORT-OF-SPAIN Š West Indies seem down and almost out of the second Cable and Wireless cricket Test.
Their bowlers could not reproduce their first innings performance as England's batsmen capitalised on a career-best eight-wicket haul by Angus Fraser to build a strong position on the third day at the Queen's Park Oval yesterday.
The tourists were 219 for four at the close, an overall lead of 242. Opener Alec Stewart, following his even 50 in the first innings, topscored with 73.
Earlier, the West Indies, resuming on 177 for seven, were bowled out for 191. Fraser, who picked up five wickets on day two, added the final three to capture eight for 53. It beat his previous best of eight for 75 at Kensington Oval on the 1994 tour.
The home team, replying to England's 214, folded disappointingly within the day's first half hour.
Kenny Benjamin lost his off stump to the last ball of the first over without addition and Fraser wrapped up the innings with the wickets of left-handers Nixon McLean and Curtly Ambrose.
McLean nervously drove to mid-off and Ambrose, who made a defiant 31, scooped a return catch off a slower ball after being hit in the ribs by Dean Headley.
Fraser's performance was also the best performance by an England bowler against West Indies, and he now has 35 of his 127 test wickets in the West Indies.
``I feel I bowled better here than when I took eight for 75 in Barbados during the last tour,'' said Fraser.
``I also like having my career best figures in a Test. I will get the ball back off the umpires and have it mounted alongside the ball from the Barbados match.''
England's openers were fortunate to find less devil in the pitch when they batted for the second time and gave their team a sound foundation, adding 91 for the first wicket. Stewart, as usual, was the more enterprising but his skipper Michael Atherton also batted with confidence.
They went to lunch at 57 and were only separated almost an hour into the middle session. Atherton made 31 before he under-edged a pull at a Courtney Walsh bouncer onto his middle stump. He batted 131 minutes, faced 95 balls and hit five fours.
Stewart and John Crawley consolidated that start with another half century stand, Stewart again the dominant partner.
McLean, the youngest, and fastest, of the West Indian pace quartet then made his presence felt with a double strike that lifted a wilting fielding team.
Crawley was leg before for 22 as he shuffled across his stumps after spending 85 minutes at the crease.
Five runs later, McLean, who surprisingly opened the second innings bowling with Benjamin, supplied the key wicket of Stewart. The Surrey opener edged to wicket-keeper David Williams who let the chance slip through his gloves to strike him on his head. But the alert Carl Hooper at the sole slip pouched the rebound to spare the diminutive Williams' embarrassment. Stewart batted 231 minutes, faced 154 balls and hit seven boundaries.
Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe, England's best batsman in recent years, rebuilt England's advantage before the close, carrying the score from 148 for three to 202.
Walsh came back to break the worrying partnership of 54, Hussain lobbing a return catch after making 23.
Thorpe, crossing 3 000 Test runs in the process, was unbeaten 32 at close. Adam Hollioake was nine not out.
Walsh took two for 44 off 21.4 overs and McLean's two for 46 off 12 overs.
``We are slightly ahead of the game,'' said Stewart. It is sentiment West Indians will feel is an under-stated one.
Day 4: West Indies Hang In
FOR all but 20 minutes of another riveting day, the West Indies applied themselves with the kind of commitment and diligence required to secure an unlikely, morale-boosting victory in the first Cable & Wireless Test.
During that brief period, their effort was undermined by the type of middle order batting collapse that has become an inevitable millstone around their necks.
Advancing smoothly 20 minutes after tea at 120 for two, pursuing a winning goal of 282, they lost three wickets for four runs in the twinkling of an eye.
That seemed to settle their fate but Carl Hooper, focused by the new responsibility of the vice-captaincy, and the plucky little wicketkeeper David Williams revived their hopes with an unbroken sixth wicket partnership of 57.
To the renewed optimism of a crowd that grew to around 10 000 Š many choosing the Test above the lure of the steelband Panorama semifinals at the nearby Savannah Š Hooper and Williams had moved to within 101 of the target when the umpires suspended play for fading light with six overs remaining.
Left with the highest total of the match to win, an imposing but far from impossible challenge, the West Indies were making increasingly confident progress 20 minutes into the final session with Stuart Williams playing the innings of his life and Hooper clearly intent on remaining to the very end of the match.
Their stand was worth 52, Williams had batted with the stroke-making freedom only Alec Stewart had previously managed in the match when a blinding catch at short-leg accounted for Williams and triggered the familiar cave-in.
Turning Angus Fraser, England's only threatening bowler, firmly off his hip, Williams found John Crawley leaping to his left three yards away at square short-leg to end his innings. It was obviously a crucial dismissal for Williams was in charge of the situation, his feet moving as nimbly and as ideally as his straight bat that earned him 11 boundaries.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul replaced him and right away got himself into a dangerous, strokeless mode against Phil Tufnell's left-arm spin, pitched in the rough outside his off-stump.
Three times he padded away, three times umpire Venkataraghavan answered roared appeals with the shake of the head, eliciting a query from the bowler after the last refusal. Clearly unsettled, Chanderpaul swung wildly across the next ball and lobbed it gently off the top-edge among a cluster of close-in off-side fielders. Graham Thorpe gathered in the catch to wild England jubilation.
When Jimmy Adams, still critically short of confidence, snicked his seventh ball from Fraser low to second slip for Stewart to expertly complete an ankle-high catch to his right, Hooper had only David Williams and the fast bowlers to depend on to help him halt the rot.
Williams' temperament, and batting ability, were repeatedly put to the Test by similar situations in the recent series in Pakistan and, once more, they were up to the challenge.
He and Hooper saw off the danger of Fraser and kept out Tufnell by kicking him away as he plugged away into the rough outside their leg-stumps.
Only wicketkeeper Jack Russell was inconvenienced by the tactic, donning a helmet and positioning himself awkwardly wide of leg-stump.
Williams took the lead, scoring 36 off 85 balls to Hooper's overall 40 off 124. Both carefully watched Fraser and Tufnell but took advantage of the lack-lustre, and lack of control, stuff from Dean Headley and Andy Caddick.
Only when Fraser was on did England's bowling look threatening on a pitch that behaved better than at any time, in spite of the occasional spitting ball from a spot at the northern end.
Headley did account for Sherwin Campbell for the second time in the match, caught low down at second slip off the uncertain outside edge against the inside edge of the first innings. But Williams and captain Brian Lara were steadying things with a stand of 58 when Fraser accounted for an unrecognisably subdued Lara with his eighth ball.
Lara spent 53 balls over 17, took a gut-wrenching blow on the box from Caddick and did not look himself for the hour and a quarter he was in. The result was an indeterminate stab to a ball angled across him and a touch into Russell's grateful gloves.
England's Barmy Army, the equivalent of the West Indian Posses, behaved as if the victory was already theirs. Their joy proved premature.
Most had arrived in the morning confident that England would be able to declare, leave West Indies with an overwhelming task and quickly polish them off. Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh altered such calculations as they swept aside England's last six wickets in 15.1 overs for 39 runs.
Ambrose collected five of them, the 19th time in his career that he has had at least half the opposition wickets, bringing his tally at the Queen's Park Oval to 39 wickets in his last five Tests.
He had been below par the previous afternoon when his 12 overs were wicketless. Refreshed, he brooked no resistance from the lower order.
He claimed Adam Hollioake, Caddick, Fraser and Tufnell to catches off the outside edge and got one to skid through for an lbw claim against the left-handed Russell. On the day, his figures were 7.5-3-16-5, further evidence to support his pre-series warning that he is not through yet.
The key wicket, the left-handed Thorpe, went to a low slip catch to Lara's right in a wonderful over from Walsh and, yet again, the great fast bowling partners had given the West Indies the chance of victory.
It was then up to the batsmen. Starting the last day, it's up to one of them who owes the West Indies plenty, Hooper, Williams and the bowlers.
Day 5: HOOPS! THERE IT IS! - Windies Vice-Captain Comes In From The Cold
by Tony Cozier
PORT-OF-SPAIN - Combining the enormous talent with which he has been blessed with 10 years of experience, the responsibility of vice-captaincy and the patience that has so frequently deserted him, Carl Hooper secured for the West Indies a tense and vital victory in the enthralling second Test at the Queen's Park Oval yesterday.
with the stroke that formalised the triumph by three wickets, Hooper controlled the destiny of the match with flawless technique and impeccable judgment.
Withthetwo Williamses,Williamsesfirst with opener Stuart, with whom he added a steadying 52 for the third wicket, and then withwicketkeeper Williams, who helped him put on a decisive 129 for the sixth, he guided the West Indies through a couple of crises that, only a few months ago in Pakistan, would have crushed them.
Steadfast for six hours 40 minutes, there was not a false, or foolhardy, stroke from the 203 balls he received. No bowler could induce him into the silly indiscretions that have so often cost him his wicket and made him such an infuriating enigma.
He himself and Captain Brian Lara both rated it the best of the 116 innings he has played in 69 Tests. In the context of the troubled times which West Indies cricket has passed, it was certainly his most important - and, arguably, as important as any ever played.
At 124 for five, in the wake of the familiar middle-order cave-in on the previous day, another heavy and humiliating disaster loomed. There had been enough of those of late, on and off the field, to appreciate that the repercussions of such a defeat would have been dire.
To go under to England, after the whitewash of Pakistan, the demise of the ŌA' team in South Africa and the embarrassment of the abandoned first Test, would have been another blow to the body the game would have found it difficult to withstand.
It might have been a reality that further concentrated Hooper's mind - and that of his intrepid No. 7 partner whose eventual 65 was his highest Test score and the third highest of a match played on a pitch requiring batting skill, courage and luck.
Hooper and the second oftheunrelated Williamses had already repelled England's advance over the final hour and three-quarters of the fourth day and rekindled waning West Indian optimism of at least a meaningful fight, if not yet final victory.
They had diligently added 57 and drawn the total to within 101 of the required 282 when play restarted on another sunny day of enervating heat. Only the four fast bowlers remained and it was clear, as manager Clive Lloyd noted overnight, that they put on at least another 50.
There was a bonus. The pair raised a further 72, occupying the middle for a further hour and five minutes as a small but vocal and involved crowd continuously shouted advice.
For England, there was sheer frustration. Williams was dropped off the day's very first ball and again when 45, there was no sympathyfromthe umpiresforseveral appeals and, finally and conclusively, five byes were conceded when the ball hit the helmet with 11 runs required
Immediately on resumption, Williams pushed a tame return catch to Angus Fraser's right and England's lumbering bowling hero of the first innings let it slip from his grasping right hand as he followed through.
Williams then spent 38 minutes, and 22 balls, waiting for his first run and had to endure further alarms that never seemed to bother him. There were rejected claims for lbw and close catches that found no agreement from umpires Steve Bucknor or Srinivasa Venkataraghavan, there was a ball that scuttled along the ground from medium-pacer Adam Hollioake to miss Williams's off-stump by the width of a stump and a top-edged cut, also by Williams off Hollioake, that flew past slip's right hand to the boundary in the final over before the refreshment break.
Mike Atherton claimed the second new ball one over after it was due at 82 overs and handed it to Fraser and Andy Caddick.
The extra hardness meant it left the bat with more velocity and the effect was to yield 11 from two overs from Caddick and 12 from four from the usually tight Fraser as Hooper and Williams cut and pulled and flicked.
There was also the bonus of four byes from a flier from Fraser that soared over wicketkeeper Jack Russell on its way to the boundary and the further frustration for England of a wide leg-side chance to the diving Russell off Fraser with Williams 45 and the deficit still 73.
Atherton returned to the left-arm spin of Tufnell, once again defensively landing in the rough outside leg-stump from over the wicket, and the sixth- wicket pair had claimed the advantage when Dean Headley was belatedly brought on for the first time 20 minutes to lunch.
The Kent fast bowler had operated with little purpose in the match but he now set up a nervous 40 minutes lunch by accounting for Williams and Curtly Ambrose in the space of four balls in successive overs before the break.
Williams' stay of three hours 35 minutes, that included seven fours, ended with a straightforward catch off the outside edge to first slip. The left-handed Ambrose snicked to Russell from a ball angled across him from over the wicket.
The fascinating equation on resumption was 23 for the West Indies to win, three wickets for England.
As the West Indian flags and voices became more prominent and those of England's ŌBarmy Army' supporters more muted, the West Indies' victory neared.
Hooper's pull off a Headley long-hop clattered into the advertising boards at mid-wicket, Kenny Benjamin handled himself as capably as Williams had done and the result became virtually assured with the unusual five byes as Russell let a creeperfromFraser through his legs and onto the helmet behind him.
That brought the West Indies to within six of their goal.
Benjamin then drove Fraser through the covers for two and Hooper placed the final full stop by stepping down to Tufnell and driving him for his 10th boundary.
It was time for celebration Š and it's a long time since the West Indies have been able to enjoy that.