England win by 3 wkts
If the script was to be believed, this was always going to be the crowning glory to an audacious experiment with England's one-day heroes, led by a latter day Lawrence of Arabia. Yet nobody envisaged quite what heroics would be necessary as Graeme Thorpe with an unbeaten 66 and Matthew Fleming 34 off 27 balls saw England home, with 12 balls to spare.
It was an amazing climax to an extraordinary game. With four wickets in hand and England requiring 72 runs off the final 10 overs, Fleming launched the death or glory assault that won then game for England. Like the trained marksman he once was, he picked his spot and hit it, his attack having the dual effect of energising Thorpe and forcing the West Indies to make unforced errors in the field.
For the third time in three games, the batting collapse came with the introduction of the two spinners Rawl Lewis and Carl Hooper. The two may seem unlikely troublemakers, but between them the pair set in motion a train of events that theatened to cut holes in England's batting.
Beginning with Nick Knight, run out at the bowler's end after Stewart called him through for a leg-bye off Hooper, the procession ended when both Graeme Hick and Stewart both departed with the score on 107.
With scant regard to the rising run rate Hollioake and Thorpe carefully shepherded England through the middle overs. It proved the right ploy, for it gave the later batsman only one way to play: a way that Fleming played to perfection.
It was a disappointing effort from Hick, who having narrowly survived a third umpire decision for a run-out, promptly got off the mark with a muscular pull for six off the leg-spiiner Lewis. Repeating the shot an over later, he was undone by some extra bounce, something Stewart could have done with an over later, when Hooper grubbed one under his bat to hit middle stump.
Having won the toss, West Indies opened the batting with the powerful Stuart Williams and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, a slender left-hander whose strokes are known to exploit the angles with all the acumen of an East End spiv.
For once Dougie Brown did not strike in his first over. Indeed, once the West Indies openers realised there was no real mystery about him other than his Scots accent, they set about him with gusto, taking 17 runs (including four boundaries) from his third over. Before either he or Dean Headley could settle, the 50 rattled up, posted in only the seventh over.
It was the first time in the competition that England's bowlers had been on the back foot. The captain's response was to bring himself and Mark Ealham on. The ploy almost brought a wicket, but Hollioake dropped Chanderpaul as he drove the ball back on the up.
Williams, on the other hand required no such fortune. Recovering from an accidental blow to the temple, as he dived to beat Thorpe's shy at the stumps, he again reached 50. With scores here already of 77, 22, and 100 not out, England's Test bowlers would do well to start paying attention.
With the 100 almost up, England needed a break. It came, as so often it has done, from the pressure created by Croft and Ealham bowling in tandem. With runs slowed to a trickle, Williams launched Croft flat and hard to long-on where Alistair Brown completed a stinging catch.
With 28 overs left, the stage was set perfectly for Brian Lara. Not so long ago, the man they call the "Prince," gave only scintillating performances, as he belted the world's bowlers to distraction.
Yet how even the mighty can fall, and yesterday's dismissal after facing just three balls, was more Harry Worth than Hamlet, as Stewart, ever the alert pro, stumped him after he had dragged his toe on to the front line following a play and miss at Ealham. It was the kind of sloppy error even a schoolboy would have been chastised for making.
But if the manner of Lara's departure was unexpected, there was no more deserving bowler to take it. Ealham was once again a nagging presence that could persuade even Andy Capp to sup up and leave. In his four games at this ground, he has averaged 3.4 runs per over and although he tends to bowl during the natural acceleration between the 15th and 40th overs when the field is set back, it is still remarkable one-day bowling.
Equally impressive, though not comparable due to the different stage of the game in which he bowls, was his county colleague Fleming. Weighing in with another fine performance (3-42), including a brilliant diving stop and throw to run out Chanderpaul for 76, the West Indies,despite useful contributions from Hooper (34) and Simmons (39 not out), were kept down to 235.
Under lights, and with the West Indies wilting under Flemings assault it proved inadequate and for once England won the early battles and went on to win the final campaign.
West Indies won toss
S C Williams c A D Brown b Croft 55
S Chanderpaul run out 76
B C Lara st Stewart b Ealham 2
C L Hooper lbw b Fleming 34
P V Simmons not out 39
R I C Holder lbw b Fleming 0
R N Lewis b Fleming 16
F A Rose run out 0
D Williams not out 9
Extras (lb3, w1) 4
Total (for 7, 50 overs) 235
Fall: 1-97, 2-101, 3-164, 4-174, 5-174, 6-200, 7-200.
Did not bat: M V Dillon, *C A Walsh.
Bowling: D R Brown 5-0-35-0; Headley 7-0-39-0; Ealham 10-1-26-1; Hollioake 10-0-50-0; Croft 10-0-40-1; Fleming 8-0-42-3.
A D Brown c Chanderpaul b Rose 1
A J Stewart b Hooper 51
N V Knight run out 24
G A Hick c Hooper b Lewis 9
G P Thorpe not out 66
*A J Hollioake st D Williams b Hooper 16
M A Ealham b Walsh 4
M V Fleming run out 33
D R Brown not out 4
Extras (b1, lb16, w5, nb9) 31
Total (for 7, 48.1 overs) 239
Fall: 1-14, 2-89, 3-107, 4-107, 5-152, 6-165, 7-235.
Did not bat: R D B Croft, D W Headley.
Bowling: Walsh 9.1-1-39-1; Rose 10-0-36-1; Dillon 6-0-36-0; Simmons 4- 0-25-0; Lewis 9-0-51-1; Hooper 10-0-35-2.
Umpires: C J Mitchley (SA) and K T Francis (Sri Lanka).
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