Cricket: Second Test - Lara upstaged by Fraser as England steal the initiative

England 214 West Indies 177-7
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The Independent Online
The fable of the carthorse and the thoroughbred may be an old one but it was given a fresh airing here yesterday. With the stage set for a Brian Lara spectacular, it was Angus Fraser, his frame creaking at the seams, who gave England real hope of winning this Test match. Having played an important but subdued role with his bat in the morning, he ended the day as the star, his timely 5 for 47 putting England in a commanding position as West Indies closed on 177 for 7.

With two earlier wickets to his name, it was Fraser's later spell of three wickets in 13 balls that did the serious damage. Pounding in from the Pavilion End, he broke the burgeoning stand between Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul when the latter edged to Graham Thorpe at first slip.

Lara then followed, more the victim of his own ambition than any dastardly plan on the bowlers behalf, though an element of planning did seem to have gone into th dismissal of the next left-hander Jimmy Adams, who was lbw without offering a stroke.

It is not often that you get to hail a yeoman like Angus Fraser, rather than a prince like Lara, particularly when the latter is back amongst his people and back amongst the runs. Indeed had Fraser not induced the leading edge that finally accounted for the left-hander, it would probably have been Lara's day and even the West Indies match.

On a pitch that has not eased perceptibly and is now taking turn - Phil Tufnell threatened both left and right-handers and removed David Williams half-an-hour before the close - this promises not to be an easy game for batsmen. However, while Lara was there, runscoring was never quite the problem it had been for others. Even when wickets were tumbling at the other end, Lara refused to be compromised and two balls after Fraser had bowled Carl Hooper behind his legs, the West Indies captain pulled him for four.

Joined by Chanderpaul, who rode his luck, the pair of left-handers added 78, before Chanderpaul's high-risk strategy of dicing with the slip cordon, finally let him down.

It could have been better for England' bowlers who initially fell into the trap that tends to afflict English bowlers in the Caribbean. Instead of letting the pitch do the work, as Ambrose had done, they got drawn into adopting the roughhouse treatment meted out on them by the likes of Kenny Benjamin and Nixon McLean.

After a fallow opening salvo, it was Headley, who having found a fuller length, induced a thin edge from Sherwin Campbell, which a tumbling Jack Russell caught without drama, something could not be said for the catch he later claimed off Stuart Williams, and which the third umpire overruled when TV replays showed it to have bounced.

The dismissal heralded the moment the home crowd had been waiting for, and Lara, rising to a conch shell fanfare, entered like an Emperor returning to Rome. However, controversial figure that the West Indies captain has become, he was soon embroiled in a sharp exchange with Michael Atherton his England counterpart, following Russell's claim to have caught Williams.

It was a matter Atherton settled soon after when he caught Williams who had chipped a leading edge to mid-off, a dismissal that started Fraser's second notable contribution to the day, after his rearguard action with Nasser Hussain earlier.

Coming together the previous evening, the pair added 42 precious runs in 98 minutes on a spiteful pitch before Benjamin ended England's innings on 214, with two wickets in successive balls. It was the longest period of play in the match in which a wicket did not fall, exceeding by some 40 minutes the entire duration of last week's first Test at Sabina Park.

But if Fraser, a limited but fairly competent batsman excelled through a combination of brave defence and squirted singles, Hussain, who was unbeaten on 61, was outstanding, particularly in his dogged refusal to be cowed by the relentless barrage of fast bowling.

Since his first Test hundred, made against India in trying conditions at Edgbaston, Hussain has acquired something of a reputation for being a good player on poor wickets. For someone prone to the technical problem associated with being squared up, it is a curious honour, but one fully justified on the evidence here. Mixing sturdy defence with cleverly placed singles, Hussain had to wait until the first ball of the 18th over, bowled by Carl Hooper, before taking his first boundary of the morning.

The inconsistency in the pitch was borne out by some remarkable bowling analyses and considering that he bowled well within himself, Curtly Ambrose was flattered by figures of 26-16-23-3. Like Fraser, he helped out with the bat, adding 32 important runs with the keeper Williams.

Not so his Antiguan team-mate Benjamin, who by removing Fraser and Tufnell is on a hat-trick in England's second innings. Having opened yesterday's proceedings from the Pavilion End, it was not until Lara switched Benjamin to the other end that he managed the breakthrough. But as so often happens against the West Indies when one wicket goes after a stand, others often follow. Happily for England, it was something that happened when they bowled, too.

PORT OF SPAIN SCOREBOARD

England won toss

ENGLAND - First innings

(Overnight: 175 for 8)

N Hussain not out 61

(315 min, 202 balls, 4 fours)

A R C Fraser c D Williams b Benjamin 17

(98 min, 69 balls, 1 four)

P C R Tufnell c Lara b Benjamin 0

(1 min, 1 ball)

Extras (b6, lb10, nb13) 29

Total (487 min, 109 overs) 214

Fall (cont): 9-214 (Fraser).

Bowling: Walsh 27-7-55-1 (nb2) (6-2-13-0, 9-5-12-0, 7-0-23-1, 5-0-7-0); Ambrose 26-16-23-3 (nb2) (5-3-4-0, 3-1-3-1, 7-5-8-1, 11-7-8-1); McLean 19-7-28-1 (nb5) (6-2-13-0, 2-0-5-0, 3-1-4-0, 6-4-3-1, 2-0-3-0); Benjamin 24-5-68-3 (nb3) (3-0-13-0, 11-3-30-1, 9-1-25-0, 1-1-0-2; Hooper 9-3-14- 1 (1-1-0-0, 4-1-5-1, 2-1-1-0, 2-0-8-0); Adams 3-0-8-0 (nb1) (1-0-4-0, 2-0-4-0); Chanderpaul 1-0-2-0.

Progress: Second day: 200: 456 min, 101.4 overs. Innings closed: 11.33.

Hussain 50: 262 min, 173 balls, 3 fours.

WEST INDIES - First innings

S L Campbell c Russell b Headley 1

(42 min, 43 balls)

S C Williams c Atherton b Fraser 19

(95 min, 58 balls, 3 fours)

*B C Lara c Atherton b Fraser 55

(166 min, 100 balls, 7 fours)

C L Hooper b Fraser 1

(9 min 5 balls)

S Chanderpaul c Thorpe b Fraser 34

(92 min, 77 balls, 5 fours)

J C Adams lbw b Fraser 1

(21 min, 13 balls)

D Williams lbw b Tufnell 16

(61 min, 45 balls, 1 four)

C E L Ambrose not out 20

(76 min, 61 balls, 1 four)

K C G Benjamin not out 0

(25 min, 16 balls)

Extras (b12, lb5, nb13) 30

Total (for 7, 297 min, 67 overs) 177

Fall: 1-16 (Campbell); 2-42 (S C Williams); 3-48 (Hooper); 4-126 (Chaderpaul); 5-134 (Lara); 6-135 (Adams); 7-16 (D Williams).

To bat: N A M McLean, C A Walsh.

Bowling: Headley 19-6-39-1 (nb9) (8-3-11-1 5-2-13-0 6-1-15-0); Caddick 14-4-41-0 (nb3) (9-3-12-0 3-0-27-0 2-1-2-0); Fraser 13-1-47-5 (nb2) (5- 0-20-2 1-1-0-0 7-0-27-3); Tufnell 21-8-33-1 (nb2) (one spell).

Progress: Second day: Lunch 8-0 (Campbell 0, S Williams 1) 5 overs. 50 in 109 min, 23 overs. Tea; 68-3 (Lara 23, Chanderpaul 7) 31 overs. 100 in 169 min, 37.1 overs. 150 in 249 mins, 55.1 overs.

Lara 50: 160 min, 92 balls, 6 fours.

Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and S Venkataraghavan (Ind).

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