Cricket: Dogged Hussain earns England a total to defend

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The Independent Online
England's overnight batsmen managed to frustrate the West Indies bowlers yesterday. Tony Cozier reports from Port of Spain.

A combinations of factors allowed England to frustrate the West Indies and build up a reasonable first-innings total on the second morning of the second Test. The first, and foremost, was the courage and determination of Nasser Hussain and Angus Fraser. The second was the ineffectiveness of the West Indies fast bowlers who had created so many problems on the opening day. The third was the asset sportsman value as highly as any other, luck.

Hussain had already earned his badge of courage throughout his vigil the previous day.

It has taken some time but he has, in the last year or so, matured into the high-quality player he seemed destined to become when he first toured the West Indies in 1990, aged 21. His patience and perseverance were essential in shepherding the lower order through on a pitch, and against bowling, that posed problems for even the specialist batsmen.

He was never fazed by several blows to hands and body and showed the kind of faith in his less accomplished partners that fill them with confidence. As Gary Sobers used to do at No 6 for the West Indies he was not overprotective, allowing Andrew Caddick, Dean Headley and Fraser to handle the situation like the Test cricketers they are. They responded with a high sense of responsibility.

Fraser was especially impressive. He took a fearful crack on the helmet to the first ball of the day from Kenny Benjamin but he never flinched throughout his vital resistance. It was the kind of spirit that promotes the entire team. It also deflates and upsets the opposition.

With just two wickets needed to complete their job, Curtly Ambrose and Benjamin would have been expected to resume firing on all cylinders as they had been less than 24 hours earlier, especially after Benjamin's direct first ball hit. Instead, they lacked their controlled menace of the first day as Hussain and Fraser became entrenched.

They would not have been the first attack to simply wait for the quick and inevitable end of the innings on such a capricious surface. By the time they realised it was not going to be that easy, Hussain and Fraser had got the hang of things and Brian Lara was ringing the changes.

They can justifiably claim they were not favoured by fortune, that half- inch here, quarter-inch there, was the difference between the ball clipping the edge and going past the bat. But there is a proven axiom in sport that the more you put in the luckier you get and the West Indies bowlers did not seem to be at full throttle.

In addition, on such a pitch, batsmen deserve more than there fair share of the luck that is going.