Cricket: Mistakes cost West Indies dear

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The Independent Online
OLD HABITS die hard, and middle order batting collapses of the type that turned the match on its head after lunch yesterday have become habitual for the West Indies.

Notwithstanding their victory in the second Test last Monday, it was a lingering danger recognised by the team management, which ordered an intensive session for the batsmen on Wednesday to talk it over.

Carl Hooper's masterful, unbeaten 94 and his sixth-wicket partnership of 129 with wicketkeeper David Williams that won the second Test camouflaged deficiencies that have become an integral, yet unwanted, feature of West Indies cricket.

They have found it near impossible to put together totals of 300, even on the best of pitches, and their batsmen repeatedly surrender their wickets with wanton strokes. It was the case in the previous Test, and again yesterday.

In the previous first innings, Brian Lara and Stuart Williams lobbed catches off the leading edge playing across the line on a pitch of uneven bounce, as Shivnarine Chanderpaul did in the second innings. In the first, Jimmy Adams offered no shot at all to be leg before.

Prior to the series, Lara himself stressed the value of partnerships and the repercussions of collapses. In the preceding match, three wickets fell for nine runs following a third-wicket stand of 78 between Lara and Chanderpaul. In the second, 120 for two became 124 for five when Stuart Williams, Lara and Adams fell.

Yesterday, the West Indies held an increasing advantage, with Lara in full cry and 19 runs were taken off Andy Caddick's first over of the second session.

The pitch, for the first time in the series, was ideal for batting. The sun was mercilessly hot and England seemed to be in for a rough time.

Mike Atherton would have been ruing his decision to field when his trusted lieutenant Angus Fraser intervened and, as he had done more than once before, exposed West Indian impatience. Sherwin Campbell edged to slip - no guilt there, for it was a good delivery and the little opener has not been in best touch.

The two crucial victims were Hooper and Lara, and both were culpable for injudicious strokes. For more than five hours in his unforgettable effort in the first Test, Hooper had made not a single mistake.

Not one silly indiscretion. This time he had hardly been in 10 minutes when his carelessness was ended with a lofted catch to cover. It was now essential that the captain hung in there and repaired the damage.

Everything was in his favour - this is a ground he knows like the back of his hand - and the ball was coming sweetly from the middle of the bat. His cross-batted pull at Fraser to a ball wide of off stump was misplaced arrogance, and the resulting catch shifted the initiative towards the opposition. In the twinkling of an eye, Wednesday's meeting had come to nothing.

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