West Indies v England, 6th Test

Reports from the Gleaner

20-24 March 1998

Day 2: West Indies take charge

Tony Becca, Senior Sport Editor

CRICKET: St. John's: Dinanath Ramnarine struck a blow for regional spin bowlers on the second day of the sixth and final Test between the West Indies and England at the Antigua Recreation Ground yesterday, and before the day was over Philo Wallace and Clayton Lambert lit up the ARG with some breathtaking stroke play.

The 23 year old Trinidadian leg-spinner spun his way to figures of four for 29 off 17 overs and played an important role as the West Indies bowlers again dominated England's batsmen before leaving Wallace and Lambert to cane their bowlers.

At stumps on the second day of the Test match, the West Indies, replying to England's 127, were 126 without loss off 27 overs, and providing the rain allows them, on the way to winning the Test match and to wrap up the series with a convincing 3-1 margin.

Wallace and Lambert plundered the England bowling with Wallace, who scored 67 off 82 deliveries, and Lambert, one six and seven fours while scoring 46 off 89 deliveries.

As it was on the opening day when rain limited play to 21.3 overs in 92 minutes, yesterday's start was delayed - by 25 minutes instead of 10 - and the action took place under dark clouds for most of the day and in between showers. Unlike the previous day however, the pitch was not as soft, and to the satisfaction of the fans - especially the West Indians, there was much more play - 66.2 overs to be exact.

Although the pitch was not as soft, the ball continued to fly from close to the batsmen.

On such a pitch, fast bowlers Curtley Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Franklyn Rose were expected to be England's destroyers, but although they bowled welland shared in the wickets with Ambrose finishing with three for 24 off 17 overs, Walsh two for 52 off 25.5, and Rose one for 14 off nine, the star was Ramnarine whose figures of one for seven off eight overs at one stage demonstrated his accuracy while mixing legbreaks with googlies.

Resuming at 35 for two with Alec Stewart on 18 and Headley on zero, England lost night watchman Headley for one at 38 for three when Ambrose beat him off the pitch and Brian Lara at slip took an easy catch.

Rose made it 57 for four when he bowled Stewart middle stump through the gate for 22 as England went to lunch on 57 for four.

After the interval, left-hander Graham Thorpe pulled Walsh to the midwicket boundary. Long before the cheers had died away however, he was on his way - trapped leg before wicket by Ramnarine for five at 66 for five.

Nasser Hussain and Mark Ramprakash played some confident strokes, posted 39 for the sixth wicket, and looked like going on when Ramnarine tempted Hussain to sweep, the ball hit the top edge, and Roland Holder, halfway to the long-leg boundary, raced away to his left, took off and came down with a superb catch.

That was 105 for six with Hussain gone for 37. Two deliveries later, it was 105 for seven when left-hander Jack Russell, greeted by a googly first ball, prodded forward to the second, a normal legspinner and was caught by Lambert at short-leg.

Walsh made it 105 for eight in the following over when Ramprakash went back, carelessly reached for a short, wide delivery and hit it straight to Shivnarine Chanderpaul at cover.

The England innings ended shortly after tea when Walsh ran to his left at long-on to catch Andy Caddick off Ramnarine and then bowled Angus Fraser off his glove.

For England, the worse was yet to come.

On the same pitch which had looked like a minefield while England were batting, on the same outfield which over which they scored only nine boundaries while batting for 60.5 overs, Wallace and Lambert smashed two sixes and 17 fours off 27 overs - the first 50 of the partnership coming off 7.3 overs with one six and eight fours as they nailed Caddick and Fraser.

Day 3: Slaughter in St. John's

Tony Becca, Senior Sport Editor

CRICKET: St. John's: When the sixth and final Test of the Cable and Wireless between the West Indies and England got under way at the Antigua Recreation Ground on Friday, the expectation was for a duel in the sun.

So far however, it has been a slaughter in St. John's.

At stumps on the third day of the Test match, the West Indies, after routing England for 127, were sailing along at 451 for five and boasting a commanding lead of 324 with two days to go.

Resuming at 126 without loss off 27 overs, the West Indies, thanks to Philo Wallace who scored 92, Clayton Lambert who ticked off his maiden century with an innings of 104, Brian Lara who thrilled the fans with one six and 12 fours in a glorious 89 off 94 deliveries, Roland Holder who drove the penultimate delivery of the day back to Andy Caddick after scoring an attractive 45, and to Carl Hooper who was not out on 85 after facing 102 deliveries and stroking and smashing 13 boundaries, totally dominated the day's proceedings while scoring 325 off 89.5 overs for the loss of only five wickets.

The three who enjoyed it were Lambert who became the 13th Guyanese to score a Test century since Robert Christiani started the count with 107 versus India in Delhi in 1948, Lara who entertained the full house Sunday crowd with a dazzling array of strokes, and Hooper who emulated his captain and reeled off some exquisite strokes.

The left-handers Lambert and Lara did so together during a rollicking second-wicket partnership of 133 off 27 overs in 130 minutes, and after they were finished, the right-hander Hooper and Holder stepped in and posted 127 off 35 overs in 141 minutes.

In an innings which lasted for 232 deliveries in 366 minutes during which he hit one six and 10 fours, and an innings in which lady luck smiled on him on Saturday when he was dropped at six by Mike Atherton at gully off Angus Fraser, and yesterday morning at 56 by Alex Stewart at second slip off Dean Headley and at 58 by Mark Butcher at midwicket again off Headley, the 36 year old Lambert became the third oldest West Indian to score his first century in Test cricket - behind Frank Martin of Jamaica who scored 123 not out against Australia in Sydney in 1931 at the age of 37 and George Carew of Trinidad and Tobago who scored 107 against England in Port of Spain in 1948 - also at the age of 37.

Unlike the afternoon of the previous day when they caned the England bowlers, Wallace and Lambert, resuming on 67 and 46 respectively, their eyes probably on a century each, and confronted by the left-arm spin of Phil Tufnell and the right-arm offspin of Mark Ramprakash, batted carefully until Wallace, who struck only one boundary while adding 25 to his overnight score, went back to Headley, attempted to force the ball through the offside, and was bowled off the inside edge 55 minutes into the day's play at 167 for one in the 42nd over.

Wallace, as disappointed as he was, departed to a rousing applause; and Lara, remembered for his world record 375 when he last faced England at the ARG, entered to a ringing round of cheers.

The fans got what they came to see.

With Lambert, after being condemned to the wilderness since 1991 when Tufnell destroyed him at The Oval in his only Test match, determined to celebrate his recall with a century in the second match of his second spring and playing cautiously, Lara preened himself before his adoring fans.

After starting with an unconvincing drive off Headley which flew past the right of Atherton at gully and down to the thirdman boundary, Lara stroked and lashed the England bowlers, all of them to all points of the ground.

After giving Lambert a start of 185 minutes and 58 runs, Lara was four runs away from catching him when he pulled Caddick and Stewart flew to his right at midwicket to haul in a fantastic catch as the scoreboard read 300 for two and England breathed a sigh of relief.

After going wicketless for 27 overs and 133 runs, England followed up with Lambert and Chanderpaul as the West Indies lost three wickets for 24 runs in 13 overs.

Lambert went at 317 for three - caught by Graham Thorpe at slip playing to Ramprakash, and after Hooper, on six at 323, was dropped by Tufnell at mid-on off Fraser, Chanderpaul, in the same over, was leg before wicket to Fraser for five at 324 for four in the second over of the second new ball.

That was it for England however, as Hooper and Roland Holder resumed the slaughter with some punishing strokes.

Holder played a few lovely strokes - including a sparkling drive to the long-off boundary off Caddick and, minutes from the close, savage hook to square-leg off the lanky pacer.

The best of Hooper however, was a shot off Fraser over extra-cover - a frontfoot drive which sent the new ball landing inches from the boundary.

Day 4: England sliding to defeat

Tony Becca, Senior Sport Editor

CRICKET: St. John's: Brian Lara's wish for a convincing victory in his first series as captain of the West Indies should be realised when the curtain comes down on the 1998 Cable and Wireless Test series at the Antigua Recreation Ground today.

After winning the second Test, losing the third, and winning the fourth, the West Indies lead the series two one, and after yesterday's fourth day's play of the sixth and final Test, the Windies, in spite of two wonderful innings, one by Alex Stewart who stroked nine boundaries and one by Nasser Hussain, appeared on the way to victory and a three one final count.

At stumps, the scoreboard read, England 127 and 173 for three with Hussain on 58 and Graham Thorpe on 18, the West Indies 500 for seven declared, and with the tourists still 200 short of making the home team bat again, and with one day of 90 overs to come, the odds, despite a slow pitch and once the rain does not interfere, are on a West Indies victory.

``It is not over. We can save the game, and that is what we are determined to do,'' said England captain Mike Atherton yesterday, and with Hussain and Thorpe still there and Mark Ramprakash to come, a draw is not beyond them.

Can England survive and draw the game? It is possible but highly unlikely. A slow pitch or not, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh are capable of a few quick wickets - and once that happens, right-arm legspinner Dinanath Ramnarine should, if necessary, clean up the rest. Resuming on 451 for five, the West Indies lost Junior Murray for four at 458 for six 85 - caught by Hussain at mid-off off Dean Headley, and Franklyn Rose for two at 465 for seven - leg before wicket to Andy Caddick - before calling the declaration 65 minutes after the start of the day's play with Carl Hooper, after batting for 217 minutes, facing 150 deliveries and stroking and hitting 17 boundaries, on 108 and Ambrose, after emulating Lara's stroke on the previous day by driving pacer Angus Fraser into the Richie Richardson Stand behind wide long-on, on 19.

Starting the day on 85 off 102 deliveries, Hooper crowned a regal performance with his ninth century in 73 Test matches his third against England in 24 - with a lovely hook off Headley. Hooper's century was the third for the West Indies in the series, following Shivnarine Chanderpaul's 118 in the fourth Test and Clayton Lambert's 104 earlier in the innings, they all came from the bats of Guyanese batsmen, and with a century each in the same innings, Lambert and Hooper became the first Guyanese batsmen to accomplish the feat since Roy Fredericks with 169 and Clive Lloyd with 149 smashed the Australian bowlers, including Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson (right spelling), in the second Test at Perth during the 1975-76 series.

Trailing by 373 runs and left a minimum of 164 overs to survive, England started confidently and went to lunch on 39 without loss off 11 overs - four from Walsh, five from Ambrose and two from Rose.

After the interval, Ambrose started from the north and Walsh from the south. After one over, Lara switched them around, and with his first delivery from the south, Ambrose made it 45 for one when he removed Atherton or the 16th time in his career leg before wicket for 13. It was 49 for two when, with the first delivery of his following over, Ambrose got a good length delivery to cut across the left-handed Mark Butcher and wicketkeeper Murray did the rest.

With Butcher gone for zero and England in dire straits, Stewart and Hussain countered with some splendid batting during a third-wicket partnership of 79 in 26 overs.

Starting off first delivery, with a backfoot drive to the cover boundary off Ambrose, Hussain played some attractive strokes on both sides of the wicket - including a picture perfect frontfoot drive off Rose to the long-off boundary.

Stewart however was the pick of the two. His drives, particularly off the backfoot and in the arc between point and extra-cover, were gems. There were two however, off the front-foot, which drew ringing rounds of applause from the gathering - one when he started to go back, slipped the leftfoot forward, and drove Walsh to the cover boundary, and one when he leaned forward and drove Rose through extra-cover. Stewart looked set for a century, and when, on 72 and minutes away from tea, he failed to get to the pitch of a Ramnarine delivery and was dropped by Ambrose at mid-off, it seemed as if the gods were on his side.

They were not. Fourteen minutes after the interval, Stewart, who angered the home town fans, not so much for not walking when, on 22, he hooked at Rose and the entire West Indies team went up in a tremendous appeal for a catch by wicketkeeper Murray but for breaking the code of ethics by signalling to umpire Cyril Mitchley that the ball had clipped his arm-guard and not his bat, played forward to offspinner Hooper and was gone for 79 at 127 for three.

Day 5: Walsh's burst does it

Tony Becca, Senior Sport Editor

CRICKET: St. Johns: The West Indies, powered by some magnificent bowling by Courtney Walsh who grabbed four wickets for 10 runs in 6.2 overs, wrapped by the 1998 Cable and Wireless series in style at the Antigua Recreation Ground yesterday with a stunning, fairy tale innings and 52-run victory over England in the sixth and final Test.

At one stage after tea, England, with nothing to play for but a draw, were sailing along comfortably at 295 for three and with Nasser Hussain on 106, Graham Thorpe on 77 and both batsmen batting confidently, the Test match was heading for an unexciting draw when suddenly and dramatically England were on the run, the West Indies on the hunt, and the fans treated to one of the most devastating and fantastic finishes in the history of the game.

In an amazing climax to a memorable Test match, the West Indies, blessed by a timely run out and paced by an inspiring burst of speed by Walsh, who finished with four for 80 off 31.2 overs, and some crippling spin bowling by Dinanath Ramnarine, who finished with two for 70 off 46 overs, blazed to victory as England lost seven wickets for 28 runs in 25 overs during 102 minutes of electrifying action.

Final score: England 127 and 321; West Indies 500 for seven declared. After winning the second Test, losing the third, winning the fourth and drawing the fifth, the result left the West Indies three one winners of the series - their fifth straight victory at home over England since their two-nil triumph in 1981.

At 295 for three it did not look possible. Suddenly however, Thorpe, who finished on 84 not out after batting for 378 minutes and 322 deliveries, stroked Ramnarine towards square-leg, took off for a single as Carl Hooper swooped on the ball, there was a grand mix-up then Hussain was gone, and the floodgate was open.

It still did not seem possible - not until Ramnarine beat Mark Ramprakash off the pitch, bowled him offstump for zero at 300 for five, and when Walsh, replacing offspinner Hooper, trapped left-hander Jack Russell leg before wicket and sent him packing for nine at 312 for six. At that stage the ARG started to rock with excitement and with Ramnarine attacking Dean Headley with a slip, two silly points, silly mid-off and forward short-leg, with the batsman plodding forward in fear, every delivery was greeted by both the fielders and the fans with shouts of expectations.

Headley, on one, eventually edged Ramnarine to wicketkeeper Junior Murray to make it 313 for seven and after two overs without further success, Lara brought in Ambrose for Walsh, replaced Ramnarine with Walsh, and the great Jamaican, playing in his 102nd Test, blew away the tail to take his career tally to 374 - two behind Malcolm Marshall's West Indies record of 376.

Andy Caddick, going back, edged a beauty to Murray to make it 316 for eight, in the same over, Angus Fraser got a nasty kicker and edged to Shivnarine Chanderpaul at third slip to make it 320 for nine and in the following over, a well pitched bouncer flew off Phil Tufnell's gloves to Clayton Lambert at forward short-leg.


A magnificent Test series finale

Tony Becca, Senior Sport Editor

CRICKET: St. John's - Cricket fans who were not in Antigua for the final match of the Cable and Wireless Test series should now be kicking themselves.

They missed not only a lovely atmosphere, not only some splendid batting and bowling, not only two super catches, but also a thrilling, unforgettable climax to a Test match and a Test series.

Years from now, whenever the powerful strokes of Philo Wallace and Clayton Lambert, the flamboyant strokes of Brian Lara, the elegant strokes of Carl Hooper, the copybook strokes of Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe, the fiery bowling of Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, the mesmerising legspin of Dinanath Ramnarine, the catches by Roland Holder and Alec Stewart, and the story book ending are being discussed, those who were there will beat their chest and proclaim, I was there.

And they will have every right to boast - especially if those in the audience include any of those who, because of the morning rain and the promise of an unexciting draw, had stayed away, or more importantly, if they include the thousands who had left the ground at tea.

``I will never forgive myself,'' said a young female employee at the Island Inn yesterday morning. ``I was there, I was bored, and I left before it happened.''

Like her employer who left the ground on the second afternoon after England were dismissed for 127 and missed the fireworks of Wallace and Lambert, she now appreciates the greatness of cricket, the glorious uncertainty of the game, and she will never ever leave again until the stumps are pulled.

At tea on Tuesday, March 24, England, needing another 98 runs, not to win the match but to make the West Indies bat again, were 275 for three and everything pointed to a draw - especially following the drizzle during the interval which, after the loss of 15 when the day's play finally got under way after lunch, clipped another five overs off what remained.

Source: The Jamaica Gleaner

Contributed by CricInfo Management, and reproduced with permission

Date-stamped : 26 Mar1998 - 22:52