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West Indies v England, 3rd Test, Trinidad

Reports from the Electronic Telegraph

13-17 February 1998

Day 1: Fraser and Caddick hit back for England

ENGLAND won the toss in Trinidad yesterday, missed their limited opportunity with the new ball, but saved themselves by superb fielding and another exemplary piece of bowling from Angus Fraser, writes Christopher Martin-Jenkins.

Brian Lara was threatening to take control at 95 for one five minutes after lunch, but with Fraser making the first incisions and Andrew Caddick following up with a spell of four wickets in seven balls after tea, the West Indies collapsed to 159 all out.

On a low, slow pitch it was clearly an inadequate total but England were left with 20 tough overs in the final hour and a half and Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh made the most of them.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul batted without a helmet after tea but that there was something in the pitch when the ball was new was confirmed as soon as England began their reply.

Ambrose had Mike Atherton lbw to a scudder on the back foot and Walsh was desperately unlucky not to have Alec Stewart - dropped at slip when three - before Ambrose broke John Crawley's stumps with a ball which cut back and again kept low.

England had a very different idea of how they might bowl the West Indies out when they chose to field first. For them the new ball did little but some brilliant catching, the low bounce and some over-excited batting were their allies.

The day's dramatic events unfolded in an atmosphere of wild excitement. In an attempt to drum up youthful support the West Indies Cricket Board recently appointed Chris Dehring, 35, a highly qualified Jamaican, as their marketing executive and among his ideas has been the introduction of a small swimming pool at each of the Test grounds to encourage the sun worshippers and flag bearers.

Accompanied as they are in this match by a live and loud calypso band, they have certainly brought the carnival atmosphere to Queen's Park Oval.

Watching Chanderpaul and Jimmy Adams trying to repair an innings was not a spectacle for any but the connoisseur. This was a key passage of the day, none the less, because by taking the wickets of Sherwin Campbell, Carl Hooper and Lara in six overs England had got back into the game.

They did so as much as anything because of one superb piece of fielding by Mark Butcher, playing because of Adam Hollioake's stiff back. Even though Campbell had just become the first victim of Graham Thorpe's reliable catching at first slip, the prospect of Lara and Hooper combining against a weak attack on a hot afternoon was a heady one to the Trinidadians. Lara was playing handsomely and Hooper, newly moved to the island from Guyana, was the man of the moment.

Reverting to type, he played a loose drive at Fraser but Butcher, at cover point, leapt and plucked the ball from the air right-handed. It was a brilliant and timely catch. Not long before the prospects for England had looked grim. Dean Headley had bowled too short and Caddick had not made the batsmen play enough.

Atherton had won the toss for the third match running and chose to make first use of the moisture which remained in the pitch, but he must have known that this was not going to be the sort of surface off which the ball would play really nasty tricks.

Certainly it seemed harmless enough as Campbell and Stuart Williams put on 36 in the first hour. Caddick dismissed Williams immediately after the first drinks break with an outswinger of ideal length which Williams edged low to first slip. Between Thorpe's first good catch and his identical second one in the second over after lunch, however, it began to look as if the role of England's bowlers would be waiters at the prince's table.

Opening with a glorious flowing off-drive from a half-volley from Caddick, Lara had only one anxious moment in reaching 25 not out in his 13 overs before lunch. Having twice turned Fraser off his leg stump for two, he must have been suspiciously close to lbw when he missed his third attempt. Umpire Edward Nicholls, standing in only his second Test, was understandably cautious.

Fraser had better luck from the pavilion end in the afternoon once Caddick's first six balls after lunch had disappeared for 19. His first good-length ball was thick-edged by Campbell through the slips. A leg glance from Campbell was then followed by four balls of imperfect length or direction, three of which Lara hit for four with a pull and two off-drives.

It came as intense relief to England's many supporters in a crowd of more than 20,000 when Fraser got a ball to leave Campbell - again the length was perfect - and in his next over Hooper threw his innings away with Butcher's inspired assistance. Lara chained himself in for a while but a short ball from Fraser was too inviting to resist and he bottom-edged his pull for Jack Russell to take a good, low catch.

Chanderpaul and Adams then held the fort for 25 overs but England's bowling and fielding was commendably tight and six overs after tea Adams was brilliantly caught from a firm drive to Atherton, who had posted himself at silly mid-off. Caddick followed up with a perfect yorker for David Williams' first ball. Sweet revenge, but how he would love to have found that ball earlier in the week.

There was no stopping Caddick now. He pitched the ball well up and low bounce accounted in quick succession for Ambrose and Kenny Benjamin. Chanderpaul had played outstandingly well but Fraser, deserving another five-wicket analysis, swung a ball back into his pads before claiming Nixon McLean to a skier at deep mid-on.

more on Day 1:

Indestructible paceman turns tide

By Mark Nicholas

THERE was an extraordinary passage of play after lunch yesterday which crystallised just about everything that makes cricket so unpredictable and therefore so watchable. During the first over, bowled by Andrew Caddick, 19 juicy runs came from the bat of the world's finest, Brian Lara, who drove, pulled and whipped off his hip with the sort of disdain that even the batting geniuses reserve for benefit matches.

The West Indies were suddenly 93 for one and Michael Atherton's gutsy decision to bowl first was looking decidedly dodgy. A slow and flattish-looking pitch with the sun ridding it of its early moisture, and Lara keen for a grand performance in front of his faithful.

Then Angus Fraser did what he always does - pitch an ordinary sort of ball on a fullish length around about the off-stump. Sherwin Campbell edged it to slip where Graham Thorpe caught it gleefully. Nothing staggering there, on any count.

In came Carl Hooper, the man England bowled at for a day in the last Test but could not dislodge. A few comfortable defensive strokes from Hooper illustrated his technical excellence and the ``improved mental application'' we all muttered about, and then, from nowhere, he prodded a catch to cover which Mark Butcher took brilliantly. It was an awful stroke by Hooper, made worse by the proof of last Monday that he has it in him to play a match-winning innings.

As if that were not enough, Lara, overdoing the disdain, swished wildly at Fraser and edged low to Jack Russell, who clung to it. From dropping their shoulders minutes earlier, England were hugging each other. Then, as if to remind us not to become over-excited by it all, not a run was scored for half an hour. In fact, in the hour after Fraser took three for six in five overs, less than 20 runs were scored while neither batsman looked as if he would get out at all. Really, there's no telling.

The only thing that appears to be certain in this series so far is Fraser. He is metronomic in his bowling, indestructible in his character. He should have won the last Test for England but collectively, they conspired to lose it. Fraser shelled a catch he ought to have caught but has had the good sense to smile about it. Better still, he does not grumble that anyone let him down.

Instead, he has rested up - he had a bowl for 20 minutes in practice yesterday - lifting his team-mates with his humour and honesty and reassuring them that the series has plenty of opportunity left in it. He, Atherton and Alec Stewart have been impressive in their level-headedness and in the conviction of their thoughts. This has rubbed off on the team and is another reason why England dragged themselves back from the danger of 93 for one five minutes after lunch yesterday and quite conspicuously, as the afternoon wore on, back into the match.

Day 2: England in need of a miracle

By Scyld Berry

ENGLAND had to take a first-innings lead of some substance to set against the unsavoury prospect of batting last against the West Indian fast bowling on a dry, unreliable surface. A deficit of 14 was not what they had in mind, which left England's bowlers with the responsibility of performing their second miracle of this Test.

To achieve that highly-desirable lead, England had three main hopes overnight, called Alec Stewart, Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe. Hussain was given out in a highly-controversial dismissal; Stewart and Thorpe, brilliant as far as they went against speed, both fell to sucker punches from Carl Hooper's off-spin.

Earnest though England's resolve was to bat West Indies out of the game yesterday, the bowling was simply too intense in the conditions. From the Northern Range end, Curtly Ambrose and Hooper operated along with a five-over spell from Nixon McLean, and from their 35.4 overs, England managed 56 runs for seven wickets in their whole innings, as West Indies wound the clock back to the 1980s when, if their own batsmen failed, their bowlers made their opponents fail more.

The pattern was set when England made the worst of resumptions. Ambrose splattered the stumps of Dean Headley with the last ball of the over that he had commenced the previous evening. It seamed in, kept low, and burst between Headley's bat and pads. Still, England's use of a nightwatchman worked and was a sensible move at the time since only 20 minutes of playable light remained when Headley went in, never mind the 11 overs which West Indies had still to bowl.

At that stage Ambrose, in his eighth over, had taken three wickets for four runs, which was prodigious even by his standards in Port of Spain. Has any post-war bowler ever been so suited to one ground over the course of his career as Ambrose has been to Queen's Park Oval? When he rounded up a couple of tail-enders after tea, he took his haul here to 51 Test wickets at 13 runs each.

Ambrose is so suited to this ground because he keeps bowling from wicket to wicket, banging the ball from his abnormal height into the ever-widening cracks and regularly hitting seam (the Duke's balls used in the West Indies have the large seams used in England in the seam-dominated years before 1990).

The controversy came when Hussain was given out to a ball which, without any doubt on the evidence of television replays, missed his outside edge. The umpire, Eddie Nicholls, of Guyana, standing in his second Test match, must have been influenced by the West Indian wicketkeeper David Williams charging towards him with an up-raised glove and the ball therein, a sight which prompted Walsh into joining the appeal.

Williams, a batting hero on Monday and yorked first ball on Friday, is normally a cheerful, puckish fellow: any similarity to that severe autocrat Haile Selassie is merely superficial, though it may help to make him popular among Rastafarians in the Caribbean. The West Indies have ``tried on'' appeals far less often than the bowlers and fielders of any other Test country in the all-professional, post-Packer era, if partly because their fast bowlers have generated so many chances and edges that they have not needed to resort to gamesmanship.

Yet there is no question that the habit of making insincere appeals has been ever-increasing in Test cricket, not to mention county cricket. It is the game's equivalent of the spectacular fall in football when a forward in the penalty area has hardly been touched at all, and certainly not illegally.

And perhaps the answer is similar: for the cricket match referee to issue a card, red or yellow, to blatant offenders, followed by suspension for a number of matches. England would have to smarten up their act no end, and it would do them good. They appeal so frequently that when a justifiable appeal comes along, the umpire's sympathy for them has sometimes been alienated.

Once Hussain had gone, whatever the means, either Stewart or Thorpe had to make a large score if England were going to take a match-winning lead on first innings. Stewart shaped as the man as he scored so freely, pulling and on-driving Walsh twice to the boundary in an over, and reaching 34 out of England's faltering score of 45 for four.

Stewart, who survived a much closer appeal than Hussain's, again off Walsh, added 44 to his series innings of nine not out, 50 and 73, to make him the only batsman on either side to have made a start every time. His back-foot play against high pace is entering the all-time-great category. So it was all the more of a waste that he should have been dismissed by an off-break which he tried to force too eagerly and too square.

Thorpe by then had settled in and unveiled an off drive off Nixon McLean that was heartening for the hundreds of England supporters to behold, if not his end to another edged square cut at an off-break. Short of runs as England have been on the sporting pitches so far, they have four proven run-scorers of international excellence who can be expected to cash in when the second half of this series begins on truer surfaces.

Bombed out first ball in Jamaica, Mark Butcher had the pleasure of scoring his first run of this tour with a push to midwicket. He did not deserve his fate at Sabina Park as he has been admirably game throughout, tearing in eagerly to bowl his medium pace and ready for a Test at minimal notice. Butcher's catch at cover to dismiss Carl Hooper on the opening day was a vital element in England's admirable response to the run-spree which the West Indies threatened.

Thorpe and Butcher began to take quick singles after lunch thanks to their Surrey understanding. Butcher received three runs for an overthrow which was not stopped by Walsh and square cut Hooper with his first full-blooded shot of consequence since last September.

Chagrin when Butcher chipped a return catch to Jimmy Adams was not diminished by the knowledge that it was far from being the first soft dismissal of his Test career. Russell was therefore left stranded as Caddick was run out from square leg and Ambrose ripped the rest apart.

More Day 2; Euphoria of carnival time rubs off on Lara's revitalised troops

By Scyld Berry

IT IS impossible to appreciate this Test match and the West Indian approach to it without an understanding of Carnival. What happens on the field of play has an impact beyond the boundary in the West Indies, far more so than anywhere else in the cricket world, and at this moment even more than usual.

Nothing in the English-speaking world can rival the mass euphoria of Carnival. The word 'party', to describe what Trinidadians do almost every hot and humid evening until Ash Wednesday, is grossly inadequate as it suggests a degree of restraint or inhibition. Trinis call it 'liming' and, as they build up to the climax of Carnival in one long frenzied Bolero of limin', it becomes a complete surrender into the arms of Bacchus.

A fortnight ago West Indian cricket was uncertain of itself: in addition to the routs in Pakistan, supporters of Courtney Walsh were set against the disciples of Brian Lara, Jamaicans against Trinidadians and an English victory in the first of these back-to-back Tests could have set in motion a train of events which would have led either to West Indian unity dissolving in a sea of insularism or even indifference towards cricket.

Instead, after Monday's victory, West Indian cricket has imbibed some of the euphoria of Carnival, so much so that when they sickened and slumped from 93 for one to 159 all out on Friday, another stringent dose of Fraser steadiness had to be part of the explanation (Trinidad is rapidly becoming as famous for Angus Fraser as Angosturas); but so too did a case of West Indian over-intoxification.

For they did get carried away on Friday afternoon when Lara and Sherwin Campbell hit 19 runs from the first over after lunch from Andy Caddick. Seldom are the characteristics of Test cricket teams so manifested as they were then. West Indies went on the attack, could not help themselves doing so for all the cautious advice of Clive Lloyd. England, led by Atherton and Fraser, fell back on the phlegmatic defence that has come to be seen by outsiders as typically English soldiering when mediaeval Europe was at war.

Few bowling figures in cricket are worthy of memory, yet these will be if England should take any share of honour from this series: 7-4-9-3. Everything about Fraser and his cricket is straight. ``I hate him,'' said a Jamaican in Montego Bay on the opening day of England's tour, long before his latest sabotaging spell. ``He always takes wickets against West Indies.''

Sometimes Caddick happens to get everything straight, but not always, as his arm-swing describes a slight parabola and even his former bowling coach at Somerset, Bob Cottam, never worked out what made Caddick blow hot or cold. This time it was hot enough for him and Fraser to bring England back into the series.

Day 3: England in fight to turn tables

FOR the second Sunday in succession one side entered the third day of a Test in an apparently unassailable position only for a spirited counter-attack in the field to put an intriguing match back in the balance, writes Christopher Martin-Jenkins.

The odds were longer against England turning the tables on the West Indies as Carl Hooper and David Williams did a week ago for two reasons. This pitch is getting livelier, not sleepier, especially in the morning session after the tarpaulins have been taken off; and the West Indies have Curtly Ambrose.

When England finally worked their way through the West Indians' second innings, 55 minutes after tea, they were left needing 225 to win and, effectively, keep the series alive. England had made inroads into that target when bad light brought a premature close, two overs early. Significantly they had not lost a wicket.

Scoring the highest total of the match in the fourth innings to win is a rare occurrence. When they managed it last week the West Indies were only the eighth side to do so in almost 1,400 Tests. The weak bowling by England which allowed their opponents out of jail then was followed this weekend by careless first-innings batting which handed wickets away at critical moments, undoing over after over of patient struggle. As they began the long second-innings haul yesterday evening England were aware that this time only their best would be good enough.

The admirable Angus Fraser led the fightback again yesterday in the field after Brian Lara, in brilliant form, had come near to becoming the first batsman in the match to make fifty. Jimmy Adams achieved it later in an innings which was both fortunate and spirited. It was Dean Headley who proved the most dangerous, if not always the most accurate, bowler on a pitch becoming steadily less predictable. Bowling from the Northern End he followed an unlucky spell of one for 33 from 11 overs in the morning with a second in the afternoon which earned him three for 21.

Fraser made short work of the nightwatchman, Kenny Benjamin, who top-edged a hook in the third over of the morning. Lara, however, opened with a flurry of flowing strokes and Fraser has seldom produced a smile broader than the one which greeted umpire Hair's upraised finger when he cut a ball back to hit Lara's front pad on middle and off. Before lunch Headley followed up with another leg-before as Carl Hooper propped forward to a ball which shot through low and cut back.

Six times in their last eight first innings the West Indies have been bowled out for under 200, so at 102 for five they were now very vulnerable. But the two left-handers, Adams and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, contributed a potentially match-winning sixth-wicket partnership of 56 before Headley broke through in mid-afternoon. Playing the ball late and with a wristy flourish, Chanderpaul had batted for 29 overs when he fell to a fine left-handed catch by Jack Russell off the angled face of the bat. England's progress thereafter was swift but Adams, plunging on to his front foot, remained in stubborn residence and blossomed as soon as he became the senior partner.

Chanderpaul was reprieved by umpire Edward Nicholls when hit on the back leg by Phil Tufnell on 22 and Adams looked equally plumb when he had made 40. Headley came suspiciously close to dissent when that one was disallowed.

If England were to get the 225 needed Mike Atherton, whose long-term future as captain probably depends on the result, needed to give a firm lead with the bat. He has had a dreadful run since guiding his team to one of those rare fourth-innings victories in Christchurch last February and then making fifties in the first two Tests against Australia last summer. Since all began to go wrong for him at Old Trafford, his Test scores have been 5, 21, 41, 2, 27, 8, 8, 2, 11, 31 and 2. If ever a batsman of class was due for runs it was Atherton in the second innings here and it was difficult to believe that his ability to keep Ambrose out would not decide the match.

He was not the only man needing to improve on his first-innings performance. England's batting performance on Saturday was a desperate, uneven struggle on a slow pitch and outfield against bowlers and fielders shrewdly deployed by Lara. He used the long-established West Indian methods of giving batsmen very few opportunities to score and then attacking in bursts. Runs were eked out painfully, sometimes literally against accurate bowling by Ambrose in particular.

When Russell riled him later in the innings he became a living fury, bowling not just dead straight but also very fast. His five for 25 was his sixth five-wicket analysis in 10 Tests at the Queen's Park Oval and since Lara preserved his batteries by asking him for only 15.4 overs, he was relatively fresh when he took the new ball yesterday evening.

England will be due some luck today. Nasser Hussain was the victim of an orchestrated appeal and a consequent umpiring error by Mr Nicholls, standing in his second Test. Cricketers will often reap what they sow and although the new official resisted further attempts by both the West Indies and England to pressurise him, one result was that he was saying not out to English appeals which ought to have been upheld yesterday, notably those against Chanderpaul and Adams.

Again, however, England had only themselves to blame for conceding a first- innings lead of 14. Soft dismissals in a hard match usually lead to defeat and the fact that Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe and Mark Butcher all got themselves out when well set could haunt them.

Stewart and Thorpe - the latter for the second time in two Tests - were out attacking Hooper off the back foot, though they should have been especially on guard against a bowler whose most dangerous ball is often the quicker one which he pushes through outside the off stump. Butcher also played excellently for more than two hours, looking a class batsman once he had got in, only to give Adams a caught-and-bowled from a leading edge.

By coming back so well in the field England earned themselves a last chance to save their tour. Atherton and Stewart got past the first milestone by forcing a change of bowling after 10 overs against the new ball in perfect batting light. When Benjamin took over from Walsh, who had enjoyed himself during an important last-wicket stand of 21 with Adams earlier, England had reached 28 for no wicket.

A pattern seems to have developed that batting is easier in the evening session than in the morning, although the flurry of wickets after tea on the first day perhaps belied it. Yesterday morning the grass on the patchy surface of the pitch had definitely greened up and a critical period therefore faces England this morning. Ambrose's record on this ground is extraordinary. When the innings began he had taken 51 of his 321 Test wickets here at 13.82.

No doubt if Fraser had bowled here more often his record would be not far short of the willowy Antiguan's. Fraser's four for 40 in the second innings has taken him to 20 wickets in two Test matches and within the continuing struggle by England to make a success of this already somewhat bizarre tour, Fraser's comeback has been by far the happiest aspect.

Stewart's batting has been the other consistently successful feature. He seems to have worked out a method of staying inside the line against the fast bowlers and trusting to his brilliant eye and quick reactions. At times it does not look entirely convincing but his scores in the series to date - 17 not out, 50, 73 and 44 - prior to the second innings yesterday seem ample proof that the method works.

Day 4 : Walsh hits back after openers put England on target for victory

THE long tradition of close, intense encounters between England and the West Indies at Port of Spain, none more clammily exciting or unpredictable than this one, continues unabated, writes Christopher Martin-Jenkins.

When bad light finally interrupted England's pursuit of 225 to win after some tantalising earlier stoppages for rain, there were 38 runs separating them from their target and six wickets for the West Indies still to take if they were to save themselves from their first defeat at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad for 21 years.

An outstanding opening partnership of 129 between Mike Atherton and Alec Stewart, whose 83 took his total of runs for the series to 259, guided England more than halfway to what would be a famous victory.

Courtney Walsh, however, is an opponent of almost superhuman strength and willpower and once he had found Atherton's outside edge England began to be haunted by memories of the rain which robbed them of a win here in 1990 and the two defeats since in games they were well placed to win.

The pitch at the outset was drier, with more cracks and a couple of ominous-looking holes, one of which was to account for Nasser Hussain. Compared with the previous morning the grass, though still thick, was markedly less green and fresh. Good marks here to David Lloyd, who had been at the ground at 7am to insist that the groundsmen should take the covers off at that time in accordance with International Cricket Council regulations. Hitherto in this and the previous game they had been taken off at around eight. Although it was a cloudy morning yesterday the extra drying time can only have helped England.

Certainly there was no outrageous movement off the seam, either up, down or sideways, as Atherton and Stewart extended their partnership to 88 by the end of the first hour. The available luck went with them, but Atherton continued in the same careful, yet positive vein of the night before and Stewart, after some loose shots outside the off stump in the first half-hour, began to play quite exceptionally well.

An excessive caution and too much batting on poor pitches has been at the root of Atherton's recent problems, coupled with the excellence of an Australian named McGrath. From the outset in the second innings here he had willed himself on to the front foot to counteract the low bounce, against his ingrained habit of going back and across.

The decisive over of the morning came immediately before the first drinks break. Atherton came perilously close to being run out by a fast, flat throw from the boundary by Nixon McLean as he came back for a second after a crisp turn to leg. The next ball from Walsh he cut very hard but in the air to the right of Stuart Williams in the gully. Often it would have stuck; this time it bounced out of his hands and when the next ball skidded through Atherton's defences and missed everything it began to look as though the destiny of the match was pre-ordained.

With the rain gathering in the wooded Maraval hills to the north, Stewart began now to take command. In successive overs from Kenny Benjamin he hit four fours, despite an almost entirely defensive field. A straight drive, a force off the back foot, a square drive and a rapid edge past the only slip to third man took England past 100 and Stewart to his third fifty of the series. It was the fifth opening partnership of more than 100 by these two and perhaps for them the most satisfying yet. The breakthrough came at last in the fifth over after lunch. On the verge of his first fifty in 11 Test innings Atherton, playing forward with an angled face to a ball which left him and bounced, gave Walsh only his second wicket of the match. His reward was to be taken off at once as, for half an hour, Brian Lara pursued a policy of using Walsh and Ambrose for alternate overs from the Pavilion End.

With Carl Hooper wheeling away from the north until Jimmy Adams took over to bowl into the rough from over the wicket, John Crawley settled in comfortably, only to run himself out. Having played Adams off the back foot to the left of Benjamin at mid-off, he came back unnecessarily for a second and compounded his felony by delaying the process of running his bat along the ground. If others make runs later this week in Georgetown, he is in danger of waiting some time before he next runs between the wickets for England.

At the least there is likely to be a rethinking of the batting order. There is a sufficient air of confidence, coolness and application about Hussain's batting for him to go back to the No 3 position. For a while his tight defence gave the West Indies no further chance to make progress as Lara now settled for his two main bowlers, Ambrose and Walsh.

Stewart, indeed, was the man who looked more likely to get out and when he was 83, after five hours of high-class batting, he duly did so. Aiming a force off Walsh, he was dropped by Hooper at slip. Two balls later his luck ran out as Walsh got a ball to leave him late. David Williams held on to the edge amid West Indian jubilation.

There was no buckling under pressure this time, but Hussain has had a cruelly unlucky game. Having hit Hooper boldly back over his head for four, he went back to a ball which shot so low that it struck him on the boot second bounce. Minutes later, with Graham Thorpe batting well, Mark Butcher, new to the wicket and the second ball available, rain intervened for two hours. There was a five-minute session after tea in which the Surrey left-handers added another 11 runs in 19 balls before a further shower restored a state of suspended agony.

A refreshed Ambrose and Walsh took the new ball when the umpires ordered a restart 10 minutes after the scheduled close of play. In fading light they bowled very fast but Thorpe and Butcher kept them out.

If the West Indies lose today they will rue their two dropped catches and the fact that on a pitch which did not deteriorate as they had hoped, Lara showed no faith in McLean, his youngest and fastest bowler. Walsh and Ambrose cannot go on for ever, but they will fire on every cylinder this morning.

Day 5: Buoyant England show character in squaring series

MARK Butcher and Dean Headley, each of West Indian descent, but each a fiercely committed member of a buoyant England team, made the 12 runs which finally took their side to a worthy and important three-wicket victory in the second over after lunch at the Queen's Park Oval yesterday, writes Christopher Martin-Jenkins.

England won the second of two extraordinary Tests in Trinidad with a leg-side bye as Curtly Ambrose finally lost the control with which, by taking three wickets in the morning, he had almost seized the game for the West Indies.

Butcher's accomplished innings of 24 not out, although it was not without its anxious moments, ensured that England finally overcame what their captain Mike Atherton called the Trinidad jinx.

After three near misses in the last eight years they precisely turned the tables on their opponents, who had achieved the same winning margin in the second Test last week.

In both games precedent was defied; England's performance in getting the 225 they needed was only the 11th instance in 1,399 Tests of a side making the highest total in the fourth innings to win.

Four have occurred in the last 11 months and two in the last fortnight. Strange records and glorious unpredictability: the game thrives on them both.

Seldom were there two more thrilling or fluctuating games than these. The guessing continued yesterday morning, first as the weather threatened to prevent a conclusion, then when England, after Graham Thorpe and Butcher had extended their fifth-wicket partnership to 33, lost Thorpe in the eighth over. He played with an angled face at a ball aimed across his bows.

A second left-handed combination, Butcher and Jack Russell, kept the battle going with runs scored mainly in twos or quick singles into leg-side gaps against fast and remorselessly straight bowling. Going round the wicket, Ambrose removed Russell after 36 minutes when he edged to second slip, whereupon Andrew Caddick touched a snorter to the wicketkeeper first ball.

It was a close call but by winning in Port of Spain, a stupendous effort of will for a side so badly scarred by losing a match they ought to have won easily only a few days before, England have kept the series very much alive for the last three games. There is little to choose between these two teams, but if England are developing, the West Indies may be a little over-developed.

By coincidence both teams face series against South African and Australia in the next 12 months. England are at home to South Africa this summer and away to Australia next winter; West Indies will tour South Africa at the end of this year and then take on Australia again at home.

This is still a greatly talented West Indian team, but some of the players are living on borrowed time. Three of the fast bowlers in Port of Spain are over 30, and the selectors must know that they should get Mervyn Dillon (who is fit to play for Trinidad this weekend) or Franklyn Rose back into the side soon.

The next in line, Reon King and Pedro Collins, are sure to tour South Africa. Yet Ambrose and Walsh remain clearly their greatest fast bowlers. Equally worrying, they do not have any serious batting reserves other than Roland Holder, who is 30.

The only probable change for the next Test in Guyana, starting a week on Friday, is the replacement of Kenny Benjamin by Rose, Dillon or one of the two leg-spinners in contention, Rawl Lewis and Dininath Ramnarine.

England now have a three-day match against Guyana, starting on Saturday, to relieve the chronic boredom suffered so far by Ramprakash, Croft, Cowan and Silverwood in particular.

All of them must be praying that when they arrive in Georgetown tonight, the recent drought in Guyana will not suddenly end. John Crawley is the most vulnerable batsman in the Test side, so he will probably play too. Butcher has forced himself into the side by taking his chances so well in Trinidad.

If Alec Stewart and Angus Fraser, man of the match here after taking 20 wickets in two games at fewer than 10 runs each, have been the major figures so far, this victory was no less a triumph for the captain.

Atherton had a brilliant match tactically in the field, especially in the second innings when he swapped his bowlers around with an imagination he was once reluctant to use. He was more inclined yesterday to praise his bowlers for ``a magnificent performance in both innings.''

He called Fraser a gem and, of course, he is. His accuracy has given Atherton a control he has seldom had in the past, and Phil Tufnell's role in this respect should not be underestimated.

The field placings, too, were thoughtful and when a resolute innings was most needed from Atherton himself he duly produced it. He will not be 30 until next month, but with this one result the odds have suddenly shortened against his taking England to Australia again next winter.

Had they lost badly in the third Test, England might as well have accepted that they were not going to win the Cable and Wireless series. There would have been a real case for sweeping aside convention and promoting Ben Hollioake with immediate effect.

Now, perhaps, Hollioake junior can be drafted in some time next season. Accounts from Sri Lanka suggest not only that his batting has quickly matured but also that he will soon be capable of operating as a third seamer when England play two spinners.

The wisdom of retaining Russell as wicketkeeper and thus making the most of one of their prime strengths, the Atherton-Stewart opening partnership, has just been demonstrated. It is all coming together nicely, it seems, for the planners, notably David Graveney and his selection lieutenants, Mike Gatting and Graham Gooch.

Although England's under-19s were flattered, perhaps, by winning the Youth World Cup, the fact is that they did win it. After the successful campaign before Christmas in Sharjah and the success of the A team in Sri Lanka, the royal flush is now distinctly possible. There is still a lot of work to do in the Caribbean, however. The West Indies remain a powerful team on home soil.

Nonetheless, for England to have won after letting the second Test slip away is a performance of great character, which seems to have justified the hard work to build up the kind of 'one for all, all for one' teamwork characteristic of the Australians.

The occasions when a country have made the highest score in fourth innings to win a Test are:

1905-6: South Africa 287-9 v England.

1949-50: Australia 236-5 v South Africa.

1968-69: West Indies 348-5 v NZ.

1975-76: India 406-4 v West Indies.

1984: West Indies 344-1 v England.

1984-85: New Zealand 278-8 v Pakistan.

1988: West Indies 226-2 v England.

1996-97: Australia 271-8 v South Africa.

1997-98: Sri Lanka 326-5 v Zimbabwe.

1997-98: West Indies 282-7 v England.

1997-98: England 225-7 v West Indies.

More post match comment

Openers set the perfect example

By Mark Nicholas

THIS was a magnificent, riveting match, made all the more dramatic by the delays for rain which added frustration to tension. There were heroes wherever you looked; the batsmen who had transcended the pitch and the bowlers who had used it so skilfully.

At times the awesomeness of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh beggared belief, for without them this would have been done and dusted the day before. With them, with their relentless accuracy, high bounce and devastating commitment, nothing can ever be certain for a batting side.

Which is why, for me, it is a well-worn pair of opening batsmen who should receive the ultimate acclaim. They, and the selectors who reunited them. No one can fathom what England's best team truly is, but what everyone knows and what the selectors had the sense to insist upon, was that Michael Atherton and Alec Stewart are not just the best opening batsmen in England, but the best partnership too, so they must be harnessed as a strength for the team to play on.

In seven minutes short of four hours at the crease during the second innings run- chase, they put on 129 of the most crucial, teeth-drawing runs they can ever have managed. Had Atherton gone early, lbw perhaps, like four years ago at the start of the 46 all-out dbcle, the cards waiting in the dressing-room may again have folded. Had Stewart gone early, the momentum of his strokeplay may have been too sorely missed for the others to have made it to 225.

Atherton made 49 from 173 balls faced, and hit three boundaries; Stewart made 83 from 243 balls and hit eight boundaries. Atherton led the charge on Sunday, with Stewart outscoring him on Monday. But always they worked as one, sprinting singles to share the threat of the new ball, and nudging ones and twos that broke the rhythm of the greatest pair of fast bowlers who still play the modern aggressive game.

Atherton has had a difficult tour. During the off- season, he worked closely with Graham Gooch on a stuttering technique which had begun to inhibit him. He worked on staying to the leg-side of the ball, on being more sideways on to the bowler, and playing defensively alongside the ball, rather than from right behind it in the hope that attacking strokes would come more freely.

He is at his best when he thinks in terms of attack, because the positive approach gets his feet going forward and his weight towards the ball. He may be best remembered for his rearguard in Johannesburg two years ago, but punchy straight drives and the thrilling hooks were its feature, and will live longer in the memory than the defensive strokes or the leave-alones around off-stump. On Sunday evening, he was edging forward again, and across to the off-side, and as a consequence the drives reappeared, along with flicks to leg, and, once, the fast swivel of his pull stroke.

Stewart has scores of nine not out on that awful pitch in Jamaica and 50, 73, 44 and 83 on two indifferent pitches in Trinidad, of which to be proud. I have said enough recently of Stewart's ability to dominate bowlers with his range of stroke off either foot and his organised technique; suffice to say that now he is able to resist self-destruction, he is amongst the finest cricketers in the world.

There is something in the way he stands, upright and tall in the face of the West Indian style of bowling that is an inspiration, as, incidentally, is the manner in which he accepts blows to the body and his hands. His message to the opposition is that you cannot break me, his message to the dressing-room is that they cannot break us.

Captains' comments - Close encounter brings huge relief for captain

MICHAEL Atherton admitted that the third Test was ``probably the most tense game'' he had played in after yesterday's nerve-jangling finale.

The England captain, who was quick to praise his players, said: ``The last one was a close game - and this one was probably a closer game. We are just pleased to come through.

``It was probably the most tense game I have played in. It was a small target today but the way the West Indies bowled made it very hard work for us.''

Atherton paid tribute to the hard work of seamers Dean Headley, Andy Caddick and, most impressively, man-of-the match Angus Fraser, who ended with a nine-wicket haul.

``After lunch on the first day was a critical spell when he [Fraser] got three wickets for us,'' said Atherton. ``And I thought the way our seamers bowled on the third morning kept us in the game really.

``We had to throw all our eggs in one basket and Dean Headley bowled for two hours non-stop from the bottom end. I thought that kept us in the match.''

Atherton's opening stand of 129 with Alec Stewart laid the foundations for victory. ``Stewy has been in magnificent form all trip and obviously those 100 runs got us on our way,'' said Atherton.

He offered further garlands of praise to Mark Butcher - ``he showed great character to see the side home'' - and Phil Tufnell, who was waiting to face the West Indies had further wickets fallen.

``He went through about three packets of fags but he was a confident boy,'' joked Atherton.

Fraser said: ``It's knocked about five years off my life over the last two weeks, but we are delighted to win. It was a test of character and I think we have shown a lot of fight by coming back to win this one.

``My bowling has got better as the matches went on. A lot of things are going my way at the moment but I know they won't later on in the tour. So I'll just have to enjoy it while it lasts.''

West Indies captain Brian Lara said: ``I give my respect to Walsh and Ambrose for bowling all morning. They did a great job and no one can ask them to do more than that for West Indies cricket.''

Lord MacLaurin, chairman of the England Cricket Board, said: ``The team have made a wonderful comeback from the bitter blow of losing the second Test here last week. They have shown fortitude and tremendous team spirit.

``It is a phenomenal achievement and I think this team is now unrecognisable from the one I saw when I went out to Zimbabwe a year or so ago.

``I'm very interested in seeing how this team develops, and the guts and determination they have shown in this Test is just what we want to see.''

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 18 Feb1998 - 10:27