Atherton applies the first aid

FIFTH TEST: England captain guides his team to relative safety as Knight is taken to hospital after being struck on the head
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England have made so many trips to X-ray departments this summer that it no safer to go near the dressing room without consulting a geiger counter than it is to play for them, and the name of Nick Knight was yesterday added to an injury list which invariably runs to toilet roll length against this particular opposition.

The difference on this occasion was that Knight sustained his injury while he was fielding, which, on this kind of benign surface, was not a huge surprise. On a pitch which barely persuaded anything other than a brand new ball to rise much above stump height, Knight's position at silly point demanded a helmet far more than any batsman.

Unhappily, the Warwickshire opener was not wearing one when Kenneth Benjamin, with a fast bowler's natural inclination for hernia-inducing heaves at floated off-breaks, crunched an invitingly wide delivery from Mike Watkinson straight into Knight's unprotected cranium at silly point.

Modern cricketers stand so close that a more accurate description would be very silly point, and the rebound was so fierce that it almost carried to John Crawley on the other side of the pitch at short leg. That Knight is still alive, let alone not badly damaged, is something to be seriously thankful for.

The game itself has now been admitted to intensive care, although we have been so spoiled in this series that another riveting Test match would have left us all a little blase. The injuries sustained by Knight and Richard Illingworth caused a slight flutter when England's 36 for 2 shortly after tea translated into an overall 59 for 4, but with Michael Atherton and Graham Thorpe re-entrenching with no undue bother, Ladbrokes last night adjudged the draw so prohibitively odds-on that they closed the book.

During yesterday's tea interval, the retiring Trent Bridge groundsman Ron Allsopp was the recipient of a special award ceremony, and rightly so. No-one did more that Ron towards Nottinghamshire's two County Championships in the 1980s, but if his pitches then had been anything like this one, Hadlee and Rice might have taken up leg spin.

England's chance of winning evaporated on Saturday, when Brian Lara made his brilliant 152, and the West Indies' own chance disappeared when Lara was out. Dominic Cork's fingerprints were on the game-killing dagger, with a legside long hop which Lara edged to Jack Russell. It was a Bothamesque dismissal, and interesting though it was to read that Botham is now lobbying for Raymond Illingworth's job, England surely cannot continue to go on appointing supremos so heavily racked by self- doubt.

Illy's no-nonsense approach has had a hugely positive affect on the dressing room this summer, and it would be a major surprise if the result of Graeme Hick's heart to heart yielded anything more sympathetic than a "booger off and score some runs". On the other hand, his discovery of Craig White has not turned out to be the find of the century, and neither did Raymond's insistence that Alec Stewart was fit to play at Edgbaston prove inspired.

Jack Russell's return has mostly been a success, although, ironically, there is now more concern about Russell's wicketkeeping than his batting. The stumping chance offered by Sherwin Campbell on Saturday was pretty routine, and will doubtless re-open the debate about Stewart's dual role if he is fit for The Oval.

The West Indies' last five wickets yesterday reduced their first innings deficit from 106 to 23, and batting that appeared to have been based around a team talk from the Lord's Day Observance Society did not indicate that they ever felt that they had a serious chance of winning the match.

They pottered through the morning session for the addition of 40 runs, and only Cork gave much indication that a drawn match was not the only possibility. His exaggerated animation occasionally borders on the irritating, but he is an upliftingly fierce competitor, and removed the nightwatchman Rajinda Dhanraj by adhering to a length considerably closer to his own toes than the batsman's.

Whether Knight has any memory of it this morning, it was a fine catch at gully to snaffle Dhanraj off the splice, and an even better one at slip by Hick to remove Ian Bishop off Watkinson. The Lancashire spinner also dismissed Shivnarine Chanderpaul, caught at short leg, and the crowd's applause had less to do with patriotism than the fact that they were being bored witless. Chanderpaul's 18 runs (12 of them in three blows) consumed 101 deliveries.

Richard Illingworth bowled well for his best figures in a Test match, although he did suffer the indignity of being clouted back over his head for one of Courtney Walsh's rare sixes, and Walsh's last wicket liaison of 33 with Benjamin narrowed England's advantage to a figure which did not allow much leeway for any second innings cock-up.

However, with John Crawley possibly endangering his place by padding up to Walsh and losing his off stump for the second time in consecutive Tests, and Hick, on the back foot, missing one from Benjamin for no discernable reason, a cock-up duly threatened. However, Atherton and Thorpe saw it through until stumps, and today's spectators might be well advised to bring along a knitting pattern or good book.


(England won toss; fourth day of five)

ENGLAND -First Innings 440 (G A Hick 118no, M A Atherton 113; K C G Benjamin 5-105).

WEST INDIES -First Innings

(Overnight: 334 for 5)

R Dhanraj c Knight b Cork 3

(59 min, 46 balls)

S Chanderpaul c Crawley b Watkinson 18

(124 min, 101 balls, 3 fours)

C O Browne st Russell b Illingworth 34

(102 min, 67 balls, 3 fours)

I R Bishop c Hick b Watkinson 4

(14 min, 11 balls)

K C G Benjamin not out 14

(52 min, 21 balls, 1 four)

C A Walsh b Fraser 19

(32 min, 24 balls, 1 four, 1 six)

Extras (b2, lb7, nb2) 11

Total (616 min, 148.3 overs) 417

Fall (cont): 6-338 (Dhanraj), 7-366 (Chanderpaul), 8-374 (Bishop), 9- 384 (Browne).

Bowling: Fraser 17.3-6-77-1 (nb1) (6-4-9-0, 3-1-21-0, 3-0-28-0, 3-1-9- 0, 2.3-0-10-1); Cork 36-9-110-2 (nb1) (4-0-13-0, 4-2-3-0, 3-0-13-0, 2- 1-9-0, 3-1-15-0, 6-1-24-0, 4-1-13-1, 7-3-9-1, 1-0-5-0, 2-0-6-0); Watkinson 35-12-84-3 (9-6-6-0, 8-2-17-0, 6-0-25-1, 2-0-24-0, 3-3-0-0, 7-1-12-2); Illingworth 51-21-96-4 (27-11-52-1, 2-2-0-0, 8-2-14-2, 9-6-7-0, 5-0- 23-1); Hick 4-1-11-0; (one spell); White 5-0-30-0 (4-0-29-0, 1-0-1-0).

Progress: 350: 518 min, 128 overs. Lunch: 374-8 (Browne 26) 138.3 overs. 400: 594 min, 143.5 overs. Innings closed: 2.32pm.

Williams 50: 129 min, 113 balls, 9 fours.

Lara 50: 48 min, 43 balls, 10 fours.

100: 137 min, 118 balls, 19 fours.

150: 253 min, 180 balls, 28 fours.

ENGLAND -Second Innings

*M A Atherton not out 38

(193 min, 138 balls, 3 fours)

J P Crawley b Walsh 11

(30 min, 18 balls, 1 four)

G A Hick b Benjamin 7

(30 min, 25 balls, 1 four)

G P Thorpe not out 47

(129 min, 89 balls, 7 fours)

Extras (lb2, nb6) 8

Total (for 2, 193 min, 44 overs) 111

Fall: 1-17 (Crawley), 2-36 (Hick).

Bowling: Walsh 12-2-27-1 (nb4) (one spell); Bishop 13-4-27-0 (6-1-18- 0, 7-3-9-0); Benjamin 11-5-26-1 (nb2) (8-4-22-1, 3-1-4-0); Dhanraj 4-0- 22-0; Arthurton 4-0-7-0 (one spell each).

Progress: Tea: 36-1 (Atherton 16, Hick 7) 13 overs. 50: 101 min, 22.5 overs. 100: 165 min, 36.3 overs.

Umpires: N T Plews and C J Mitchley (SA).

TV Umpire: G Sharp.