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West Indies v England, 5th Test, Barbados

Reports from the Nation

12-16 March 1998


by Tony Cozier

THE second day of the fifth Test yesterday was made up of two distinctly different parts, linked only by the suffering of the bowlers in conditions that would interest the UN Commission on Human Rights.

For the first four-and-three-quarter hours, it was predictable, measured and completely orthodox. It was, in other words, typically and efficiently English.

For the final hour-and-three-quarters, it was explosive, electrifying and utterly unconventional – in other words, typically and brilliantly West Indian.

Mark Ramprakash carefully and convincingly converted his maiden hundred into the highest score ever made by an Englishman in a Kensington Test, 154, leading England to the rare heights of 403. Then the West Indies opening pair, Philo Wallace and Clayton Lambert, reduced England's bowlers to so much cannon-fodder as the shadows lengthened across sunlit Kensington.

Approaching their assignment with the no-nonsense gusto on which their reputations at regional level have been based, the two heavy-set openers launched an immediate offensive that left the 11 Englishmen on the field and the thousands in the stands dumfounded.

In contrast, the outnumbered West Indians could finally jump and wave, scream and shout and wind down and stick.

Their frustration had been long and tortured throughout Ramprakash's masterly 154 and his record sixth-wicket partnership of 205 with the other century-maker, left-handed Graham Thorpe.

Now they could rejoice in forthright batting against quick bowling that brought back fading memories of Cammie Smith and Gordon Greenidge.

Lambert set them alight with a sweetly-timed ondrive in Dean Headley's first over for the first of the 15 boundaries he and his belligerent partner would strike between them.

There was near delirium as the Guyanese left-hander, his aggression exaggerated by his awkward, wide-open stance, slapped Angus Fraser's first ball disdainfully onto the wall of the Eric Inniss Stand from where it rebounced a good 30 yards.

The right-handed Wallace soon joined the fun. Standing tall and delivering, he drove and pulled with breathtaking power. Headley was belted with such power that umpire Cyril Mitchley at square-leg only just managed to avoid serious bodily harm by falling to ground.

Caddick was pulled and flicked off the legs for boundaries and fiercely backdriven, only the stinging tips of his fingers preventing another four.

The usually miserly Fraser was hoisted over mid-on and, when Headley shifted to the southern end, he was pummelled for three more fours in one over, one over midwicket, two overhead.

At the opposite end, Lambert was prepared to gather his runs in less exuberant style after his early aggression.

He drove certainly on both sides of the wicket and, whenever he detected a sign of over-confidence in his rampant partner, he would saunter down the pitch to whisper a cautionary word.

They had put on 82 by the 20th over – the highest West Indies opening partnership in nine Tests – when Mitchley found himself in the action again.

Wallace, a tall man, stretched a long way out on the front foot and was struck on the pad by Headley.

The bowler's appeal was loud, long, optimistic – and effective. After some delay, the dreaded finger was raised and Wallace strode off, 45 from 48 balls with nine fours against his name in the book.

It was a dubious decision and it undoubtedly eased some of the worries of the police, for this morning for Fontabelle and Pickwick Gap was bound to be a mass of Barbadian humanity had Wallace, in this form, remained to the close.

With Brian Lara, Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul to come, they are still likely to have their hands full.

Until Lambert and Wallace set out on their mission as the tenth West Indies opening pair in six years, England continued to enjoy themselves.

Ramprakash and Thorpe had revived them the previous afternoon and their stand was already worth 98 at the start.

But, at 229 for five with only the bowlers left, England's position was by no means comfortable.

It became more and more so as the two batted with few alarms throughout the morning session and 25 minutes into the afternoon.

Ramprakash set the tone with an elegant cover-driven boundary off Nixon McLean, who began the day in partnership with Curtly Ambrose from the southern end, and none of the four fast bowlers could make an impression.

McLean did have a lively spell when he switched ends and had the stiff wind at his back. He induced one of Ramprakash's rare indiscretions, a wild slash that went to the third man boundary to carry him to 97, but he conceded another cover-driven four that settled Ramprakash's hundred, his first in his 22nd Test.

His joy was obvious and understandable, as was the appreciation of his countrymen who rose to acclaim his feat.

Strikingly, Andy Sandham's 153 had remained as England's highest score on the ground since 1930.

By lunch, Thorpe was within 16 of his landmark and England had gone through the morning's 26 overs without loss, adding 63.

It was strange that captain Lara did not use Hooper at all during the session for the off-spinner had twice snared Thorpe in the series and bothered him on the previous day.

It was a bafflement to compare with his non-use of Ambrose when England were battling to avoid the follow-on at Bourda.

As it was, Hooper caused the first real uncertainty in the batting as soon as he came on at the southern end and he was to gather four of the last five wickets.

His first ball, a clever drifter that floated in with the wind, caught Thorpe on his crease and so much on his stumps that Mitchley's refusal of the appeal was inexplicable. Thorpe was then 98.

Four balls later, Ramprakash, then 115, swung across another one that swung out and topedged the stroke. Roland Holder, at midwicket, moved late for the lofted catch that fell just out of his grasping dive.

Hooper eventually did get his man but only after Thorpe had passed his sixth Test hundred. The left-hander edged a defensive stroke to an off-break low to first slip, ending a partnership that surpassed as England's sixth-wicket record against the West Indies, the 163 put on by Tony Greig and Alan Knott at Kensington in 1974.

By now, England were 336 for six but there was no particular urgency to increase the momentum until after tea.

Then, Ramprakash punched a return catch to McLean, lifting a stroke that had gained him many of his runs straight down the ground. He returned to a deserving ovation. He has taken a long time to assert himself as a Test batsman and scotch doubts about his temperament. Batting England out of serious trouble in both his Tests these past couple of weeks, there can be no doubts now.

Hooper then quickly wrapped up the innings.

Day 3: Bat-stabbers At It Again

THE West Indies batting had another one of those awful, aimless days that have become the rule, rather than the exception, on the third day of the fifth Test yesterday.

As they have contrived to do against every opponent and in every country where they have had the chance to display their ineptitude in the past two or three years, they were undone as much by their own inexplicable indecision as England's discipline.

After Philo Wallace's LBW verdict on the previous evening, they also lost another important wicket to a blatant umpiring error. But they had long since backed themselves into a corner.

Unless their overworked bowlers can work some miracle today, the same batsmen who have so repeatedly let them down will now have the huge task of saving the match, and protecting their 2-1 series lead.

England start this morning 143 to the good and all wickets standing. So that the West Indies will have to bat on a last day pitch with another 90 overs' wear on it. The prospects are not encouraging.

Following the explosive bombardment by Wallace and Clayton Lambert the previous afternoon, the West Indies carried their best start in nine Tests with them into the third morning.

Instead of the anticipated continuation of the blitz, the batsmen treated the ball with all the care of a bomb disposal expert and England patiently waited for the inevitable desperate stroke.

Left-arm spinner Phil Tufnell, controlling the northern end from start to three-quarters of an hour after lunch, was allowed to get away with 20 consecutive overs that yielded a mere 25 runs.

Mark Ramprakash, the batting hero of England's first innings and no more than a occasional, very slow off-spinner, was flattered by figures of 18 overs for 32 and his second Test wicket.

The pitch offered them some turn and high bounce and they both used the strong cross breeze cleverly. But they were treated as if they were Laker and Lock which they surely are not.

It allowed the fast bowlers to settle into the length and line from which they were blasted by the openers on Friday.

The left-handed Lambert, the robust ball-beater with the belligerent stance, was transformed into a timid blocker who took almost three hours and 121 balls to add 23 to the 32 he had gathered overnight in half the time off a third the balls.

He overdid his understandable resolve to ensure he doesn't have to wait another 6 1/2 years between Tests and achieved little.

The struggle was compounded by the baffling shuffling of the order that demoted Carl Hooper, the most accomplished antidote to spin, below the more restricted Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Roland Holder.

Chanderpaul spent three hours and 147 balls over 45 before he was given out by his fellow Guyanese Eddie Nicholls to a catch off Angus Fraser with the second new ball. The ball flew from the bat and into the ground on its way to second slip's lap.

Holder, returning to the team for the first time in the series after his two big hundreds against the Englishmen in minor matches, was so entangled in the combined web of Tufnell and Ramprakash that he offered a couple of close catches in 50 tortured minutes before he chose a schoolboy's way to free himself and was embarrassingly bowled, swiping wildly at Ramprakash.

By the time Hooper arrived on Holder's dismissal, England had secured their stranglehold.

The usually free-scoring right-hander laboured an hour-and-three-quarters, and 41 balls, over nine before Fraser pinned him back on his stumps and won Nicholls' approval for the LBW.

Only Brian Lara, whose instincts know no other way, and Curtly Ambrose showed any enterprise, and they were separated by over four hours and an excess of indecision.

Lara came to replace Ian Bishop after the nightwatchman had edged Tufnell's perfectly pitched spinner 25 minutes into the day.

The captain was not at his best but he still reeled off five fours in 31 off 55 balls. Then, driving at Dean Headley with his weight more on back foot than front, he rifled a catch into cover's lap.

From there on, there was neither plan nor purpose to the effort.

In the two hours to lunch, the total moved forward by a mere 58, 12 to the stodgy Lambert. In the second session, it advanced by 52 as Lambert and Holder succumbed and Chanderpaul went scoreless for 31 balls.

Lambert's protracted vigil that occupied nearly 4 3/4-hours was ended by a thin edge to one angled across him by Caddick whose delayed introduction goaded him into an excellent spell.

Immediately after tea, Chanderpaul was dropped by the uncertain wicket-keeper, Jack Russell, when 40 but his luck did not hold. He was just beginning to look a little easier when his first-bounce dismissal in the second over of the second new ball sent him on his way.

Hooper was left to see whether he and David Williams could repeat their heroics of the first Test but England were not to be denied this time.

Williams drove Caddick straight to cover, Hooper was lbw to Fraser and only Ambrose's free-swinging drives that yielded five fours in 26 off 27 balls pushed the total past 250 as he dominated a stand of 34 with his competent fellow left-hander Nixon McLean.

Attempting another big hit, he was ruled out by TV replay umpire Halley Moore, stumped off Tufnell as his backfoot was on the line.

Courtney Walsh had one heavy blow off Headley over midon for a boundary but, next ball, popped a return catch back to the bowler off a bouncer.

Mike Atherton and Alec Stewart negotiated the two overs left to them with no real alarms. They return today, ready to dictate the pace.

More Day 3: Timid WI Play Into English Hands - Michael Holding

THE West Indies' tactics yesterday or, more accurately, lack of them were mystifying.

After the tremendous start they had been given the previous afternoon by Philo Wallace and Clayton Lambert, their approach on a good pitch should have remained positive.

This does not mean aggressive and reckless in their strokeplay but to look for runs at every opportunity, the way the openers had done.

Occupation of the crease is all well and good but not without keeping the scoreboard ticking over. Blocking only allows the bowlers to find their rhythm and gives them confidence. They soon begin to dictate terms.

That was the case as Phil Tufnell wheeled away in his long spell from the pavilion end. No one tried to take him on and he regained the self-belief he lacked in the previous Tests.

By the time Mark Ramprakash came on with his slow off-spin, the die was cast. He is no Lance Gibbs or Jim Laker but you would have thought he was by the tentative way the batsmen approached.

Lambert is obviously limited against spin, playing as he does so much off the back foot. But he was too prepared to become bogged down and, in the end, got very little return for his hard labour. I just wonder whether he was given any instructions when he resumed his innings.

The most baffling decision was Carl Hooper's demotion in the order.

He is an experienced batsman, comfortable against spin and in good form. After Brian Lara, he is the one most likely to take charge.

The obvious time for him to come in was once Lara was gone. Lambert had got himself into a rut and he needed someone to take up the slack at the other end. Hooper was the man.

As consistent as he is, Chanderpaul is restricted against steady bowling and Roland Holder was returning to the side for the first time for the series.

That Hooper should have come after them both was a glaring tactical blunder.

While the pitch remained in pretty good order, there was something there for both Tufnell and Ramprakash. You expect any good Test pitch to start offering help to the spinners on the fourth and fifth days but this was doing it on the third. But it was certainly not difficult, even if the West Indies batsmen made it look that way.

England's bowlers showed a lot of discipline after their lashing on Friday afternoon and, in Ramprakash, they seem to have an all-rounder in the making. But bowlers can only bowl as well as they are allowed to and they were favoured by how the West Indies approached things.

Day 4: Hope Springs Eternal

IF we are guided by the usually reliable evidence of history, ancient and modern, rather than sentiment, the West Indies should lose the fifth Test at recolonised Kensington sometime late this final afternoon.

But Clayton Lambert and Philo Wallace neither defer to cricketing precedent nor are intimated by the 11 new age Britons who confront them on the field and the hordes of supporters who have returned to once more capture treasured terrain in Fontabelle that was once a proud West Indian preserve.

The two muscular new openers set out on the second innings with 19 overs of the day remaining, faced with the challenge of scoring more than any West Indies team has ever done to win a Test, 375, to secure the series or batting longer than they have become accustomed to protect their 2-1 lead.

They adopted the same strong-arm tactics that had so discombobulated the opposition 48 hours earlier.

With a volley of punishing strokes, and with the luck that so wickedly deserted Wallace in the first innings, they reduced the target by 71 by the time stumps were drawn so that the equation is now 304 off a minimum 90 overs on a pitch that remains basically true and on an outfield that has become like glass over the four days.

They resume this morning with Wallace, the massive right-hander, 38, and Lambert, his equally powerful left-handed partner, 28.

It is still a mountain to climb for the West Indies have not reached such a total for 14 Tests, since against India at Sabina Park last year, and have seldom been able to survive as many as the 109 overs that was the minimum number for their innings.

If England will be further encouraged by the West Indian decline that followed the equally commanding Lambert-Wallace first innings partnership of 82, they will be apprehensive that Brian Lara is the next man in.

Quite apart from the numerical coincidence that 375 is the exact equal of his celebrated Test record score, this is the ground where Lara made his debut as captain a year ago and he awaits his chance to help create the miracle of victory that his fast bowlers conjured up for him then as India were routed for 81.

Lambert and Wallace have set the tempo and it is inconceivable that it will again be spurned by the timidity of the first innings.

They belted the startled Andy Caddick, Dean Headley and Angus Fraser with the type of uncomplicated, often aerial strokes, that at least one of England's fast bowlers has reportedly, and arrogantly, mistaken for swiping.

Wallace has so far thumped seven fours, three back overhead, another a clean cover-drive, one off a leading edge high to point, one to third man and one clean through the cover fielder, Nasser Hussain.

Lambert's five have been three punchy drives down the ground, a dismissive slap to midwicket off a Fraser long-hop and a sweep off the left-arm spinner Phil Tufnell, England's main hope of a series-levelling win who was on after four frenetic overs.

Twice in one over from Tufnell England should have removed Wallace.

Responding to Lambert's call for a sharp single to mid-on when 27, he gained the benefit of what minimal doubt there was in the mind of TV replay umpire Halley Moore as Alec Stewart's throw hit the stumps direct with his stretched bat apparently marginally above ground level.

Three balls later, the relieved Wallace top-edged his sweep to backward square-leg in the lee of the imposing new Mitchie Hewitt Stand. Headley approached it too casually, the ball descended suddenly and he spilled the low chance.

Wallace's misfortune with umpire Cyril Mitchley's first innings LBW verdict against him had been fully compensated.

The alarms brought a more measured approach from Wallace, and Lambert too, as the close approached and they survived with no more trouble.

As was the case on Friday, their belligerence energised the outnumbered West Indians in the stands.

The Trini Posse under the Three Ws Stand tried their best to keep their flags flying and their spirits up with a little of Rudder's Give Praise and the strains of „We will overcomeš were occasionally heard from the Kensington Stand.

But, as England moved confidently towards the total and the time they judged correct for the declaration, the more audible voices were unmistakably British and Barmy Army.

The West Indies could not prevent the accumulation of runs as Atherton began to bat like he did in the Caribbean four years ago, sharing an opening stand of 101 with Stewart, their second in three figures for the series, and Nasser Hussain and the left-handed Graham Thorpe built on it after tea.

Stewart made the early running, taking three fours off successive balls in Courtney Walsh's second over, one finding the wide and inviting gap between second and third slips but, by lunch, taken at 87, Atherton was back level with him.

Lara spared Curtly Ambrose and Walsh more hard grind, using Ian Bishop in two lengthy spells.

He was rewarded with the wickets of both openers, Stewart expertly held inches from the ground at first slip by Lara, and Atherton touching one outside off-stump that he tried to run down to third man for a 'keeper's catch.

Ambrose returned in mid-afternoon to claim the other wicket: Mark Butcher's firm stroke into the covers producing a tumbling catch to his left by Lambert.

By then, it was only a matter of when Atherton would be satisfied enough with his position to close.

Thorpe accelerated it. He and Hussain, like those before them, took advantage of the lumbering big men in the outfield and Walsh's weak arm to sprint several sharp singles and twos.

When Ambrose suddenly and surprisingly lost his control, delivering three long-hops from successive no-balls, Thorpe rocked back to thump them hard up against the Kensington Stand wall like a white Lambert.

Ambrose's first seven overs cost only eight runs. His last two went for 24.

The declaration came as a relief to him and his fellow bowlers who could then sit back and, like their fellow West Indians, enjoy the entertainment and hope provided by their two openers.

Day 4 comment from Michael Holding

Victory A Bit Farfethched

SO we have come to a final day with an interesting equation 304 to win and 90 overs to get them.

It is a virtual impossibility but it is still a possibility. Clayton Lambert and Philo Wallace have given a wonderful lead with their positive strokeplay and the rest of the batting must follow their example.

They didn't in the first innings when their overnight assault on the bowling turned into such indecision on the next day. That allowed the England bowlers to take control and the batsmen could not break free when they belatedly tried to.

The pitch is still playing reasonably well. Even though there are one or two spots giving way on the top, it's not difficult. And the outfield is very fast. Strokes are getting full value. There were 24 boundaries, yesterday.

If Lambert and Wallace can keep their stand going for some time with the same type of approach that would be an enormous boost to the West Indies hopes.

It would immediately establish who is boss and pave the way for Brian Lara and Carl Hooper, the two other quick scorers in the team.

I only hope Hooper comes into his proper position of No. 4 and not down the order as he did in the first innings.

That was a waste. If things go wrong, then Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Roland Holder are good enough to hold their ends up for long periods.

England's key men will obviously be the spinners, Phil Tufnell and Mark Ramprakash.

They will be able to get turn and bounce but they can't be allowed to settle in as they did in the first innings and dictate terms.

If the West Indies win from here, it would be one of the greatest victories in Test history. It would not only settle the series in their favour but would be a big boost to morale.

Even if they come close and draw, and force England on the defensive trying to hang on, it would strike a great psychological blow.

It's up to the batsmen. They owe a lot to the West Indies for their many failures in recent times.

They must be positive for that's the way West Indies have always played their cricket.

Day 5: English Curse The Weather

by Tony Cozier

ENGLAND brought with them to Barbados their supporters in their thousands. At precisely the moment they least wanted it, their weather arrived yesterday to join them and spoil a climax to the fifth Test of intriguing possibilities.

For West Indians, it was at least one British import to Kensington whom they could welcome, rather than resent, for it prevented a potentially difficult struggle for their team.

The rain and the grey, unbroken skies that resembled Manchester in March, rather than Barbados, first completely eliminated whatever slim chance the West Indies had of pulling off a sensational victory but also appreciably reduced the time England's bowlers had to try to press for the victory that would have levelled the series.

In the middle of the dry season, it was the wettest day in two months and led to the first drawn Test match at Kensington since 1977. At least the ground kept its record, unique among its West Indian counterparts, of never having lost an entire day's play to the weather.

By the time play began, the available overs had been reduced from the original 90 to 71. But there was time for only 18.3 of those, and the wickets of the West Indian openers, between the delayed start at 1 p.m. and 2:20 p.m.

Further rain, persistent rather than pelting, brought an early tea and, finally, abandonment before a ball could be delivered on resumption.

Even with the loss of the entire pre-lunch period and quarter-hour of the second, an England win – or, more to the point, a West Indian loss – was not out of the question when left-arm spinner Phil Tufnell could finally deliver the day's first ball to Brian Lara.

The West Indies batting has been so brittle and indisciplined of late that they have repeatedly failed to bat out the number of overs with which they were now confronted. Ten times in their previous eight Tests they had been bowled out under 75 overs, including three already in this series.

With Tufnell exploiting the firm rough outside the left-handers' off-stump, they might have been hard-pressed to hang on had the skies cleared.

As he did for 33 overs in the first innings, Tufnell commandeered the northern end and even Brian Lara found him a handful. As the ball spun and jumped out of the scuffed up bowlers' footmarks in front of him, he took blows on pads and body as he thrust forward.

Once, when he played back, he just managed to keep a shooter out of his stumps with the bottom of the bat.

The right-handed Philo Wallace, confirming the improvement in his defence this season, did not have to bother about the rough and coped much more capably, sweeping Tufnell with certainty and once opening up his immense shoulders and swinging his bat through the line for a huge six over straight long-on.

But Tufnell went wicketless. The fast bowlers at the opposite end had what success there was.

When Angus Fraser dropped the second ball of the day's second over short, the left-handed Clayton Lambert was waiting on the backfoot for his favoured pull shot that had brought him a couple of boundaries earlier in the match.

This time, the bounce was higher and the line closer to him and, cramped, he sent a high catch from high on the bat in the direction of mid-on. Dean Headley, running with his back to the pitch, made an excellent take in almost precisely the same spot where he had missed Wallace's easier offering on the previous day.

Wallace then cut Fraser to the third-man boundary, whacked him overhead for another and sent Tufnell over the ropes to raise his 50.

He had made 61 when, unconvincingly forward in Andy Caddick's first over, he was LBW for the fourth time in his four Test innings. Unlike umpire Cyril Mitchley's in the first innings, Eddie Nicholls' verdict was quick and obvious. It is a sequence that should occupy Wallace's attention.

That, more or less, was that. Shivnarine Chanderpaul had just enough time to get going when the first of two showers brought an early tea and the second sent them scurrying back into the pavilion for the last time without another ball delivered.

By then, most of the England supporters had headed home and there was only a hundred or so left for the presentation ceremony at which Prof Edwards predictably declared Mark Ramprakash Man of The Match for his 154 in England's first innings.

Since Edwards had supervised the preparation of an ideal pitch, it was his second gift to Ramprakash in a few days.

The teams, the media and the tourists all now descend on Antigua from today for the sixth and final Test starting at the resurfaced and relaid Antigua Recreation Ground on Friday.

England's optimistic anticipation of success in a series in the Caribbean for the first time since 1968 has gone but there is still a lot to play for.

Source: The Barbados Nation
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Date-stamped : 17 Mar1998 - 18:31