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West Indies v England, Test 3

Reports from the Nation

February 13-17, 1998

Day 2: Second Innings Battle For Victory

by Tony Cozier

PORT-OF-SPAIN Another extraordinary Test match at the Queen's Park Oval has developed into a straight second innings contest.

After two days, in which 22 wickets have fallen for 375 runs, the West Indies are 85 in the lead with eight wickets in tact. Their suspect opening batsmen have already gone and their hopes of a rare significant total are being carried by their captain Brian Lara who starts this morning unbeaten at 30.

Given the technical and temperamental batting weaknesses of both sides, starkly exposed on the six days of the series so far, it is not so much the team that bats better second time round that will win as much as the one that bats worse will lose.

So far, the batsmanship has been woefully short of Test quality.

It is not a shirt-front pitch but it is certainly not a minefield and markedly less difficult for batting than that for the second Test of a week ago.

Yet the combined first innings amounted to 304, no one has stayed at the wicket more than Alec Stewart's two and three quarter hours and no one has made more than his 44. As it was, he benefited from Lara's straightforward miss at first slip late on the first day when he was 3.

Whoever fashions it, the game is sorely in need of an innings of quality. The batting on the second day was every bit as lamentable as it was on the first.

England, undermined by Curtly Ambrose's typical aggression late on the first day, resumed at 22 for two and immediately felt the gangling fast bowler's sting again. The last ball of Ambrose's uncompleted over, the fourth of the day, catspraddled nightwatchman Dean Headley's off and middle stumps without a run added.

Five runs, and 25 minutes later, Courtney Walsh was probably fortunate to gain umpire Eddie Nicholls' agreement on an appeal against Nasser Hussain for a catch at the wicket off the outside edge but, until Lara called on Ambrose to clean up the tail for yet another five-wicket bag on the ground, England faltered mainly to the unlikely spin of Carl Hooper and Jimmy Adams while also squandering a wicket to a run out.

As with the West Indies, every time a partnership seemed settled some indiscretion would end it.

Stewart, solid and confident, and Graham Thorpe put on a steadying 44 for the fifth wicket when Stewart played inside Hooper's straight ball and snicked it into David Williams' gloves.

On either side of lunch, another Surrey pair, the left-handers Thorpe and Mark Butcher, added 30. They were also separated by Hooper who induced the same cut that Thorpe had tried in the first innings of the previous Test with the same outcome: a topedge to the jubilant Williams. Each time, the off-break was too close for the stroke.

Butcher, whose only previous hand for the tour was his unnerving first ball on the flying pitch at Sabina, raised a further 33 for the seventh wicket with the quirky fellow left-hander, wicket-keeper Jack Russell, carrying England to within 26 of the lead and prompting Lara into one of his gambles.

The captain called up Adams for a little slow left-arm stuff which immediately had the desired result. Butcher spooned a simple return catch, an elementary error after two hours defiance.

The tail was now exposed, Ambrose returned and the last four wickets fell for 11, including a run-out, to ensure a lead of 14.

Eager to avoid Ambrose's last over to tea, Caddick backed up too far at the bowler's end and couldn't quite beat Lara's alert pickup and first bounce throw back to Adams, the TV replay confirming the decision.

Ambrose returned after the break to polish off the innings with successive balls, following through for a low return catch off Fraser and pinning Phil Tufnell lbw, to ensure the lead of 14 and raised his tally of Test wickets at Queen's Park to 51 in ten Tests.

Once again, Stuart Williams and Sherwin Campbell couldn't build a start of any consequence.

Williams made 24 of the 27 with three eye-catching boundaries before he slapped a long hop from Caddick overhead to gully where Mike Atherton hauled down the catch. There was a time when such misjudgement would cost a batsman his place.

Campbell spent an hour and 50 minutes and 64 balls over 13 while Lara pulled and drove at the opposite end. Ten minutes away from the close, he went back and across to Fraser and was lbw, as he had been more than once in Australia last season and nearly was more than once here.

Source: The Barbados Nation
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Date-stamped : 16 Feb1998 - 22:34