Battered England face early defeat

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Cricket

Another extraordinary batting collapse by England in their second innings yesterday has left them in serious danger of suffering defeat by an innings inside three days in the third Test.

Batting again 153 behind on a pitch that had been blameless all day, they lost three wickets for nine runs in two overs and finished 94 behind. Their last defeat inside three days was in Brisbane in 1990, but their last home defeat in that time was at Old Trafford in 1966 by, yes, the West Indies.

Dominic Cork, who took four wickets and was 15 not out last night, remained upbeat: "They pressure you all the time, even without Curtly Ambrose [groin strain]. There is a little indifferent bounce and the pitch does seem to play up more when it's overcast, but we're not going to lose. Robin [Smith] and I have got to be positive, see off the first hour and go from there. Alec Stewart and Jason Gallian are still to come. It's not all over yet."

The England physiotherapist, Dave Roberts, revealed that four players, Gallian (who has a cracked finger), Stewart (who had painkilling injections), Smith and Cork, were under treatment for hand injuries: "I'm afraid you always get this when playing the West Indies".

The day had begun well. Spirited bowling, especially from Cork, reduced West Indies to 198 for 6, only 51 ahead, before Richie Richardson rallied the innings. His feat had to be measured more in time - four hours - than runs - 69 - a captain's innings in application and in his guidance of the tail's long resistance.

He had to forgo half his contract with Yorkshire last year because of fatigue, lost a series to Australia last winter, has shown only glimpses of form this tour and has also had erratic team performances to worry about. Yet he has remained calm, courteous and accessible, and deserved every clap in the standing ovation he received from most of the pavilion members.

So furious had been the media critcism overnight of the pitch on which England had foundered for 147 in the first innings that before play a high-powered delegation were peering at the treacherous strip: chairman Ray Illingworth, selector David Graveney, and batting coach John Edrich. For a second it seemed that the chairman might do the full Basil Fawlty, leaping up and down, cursing and kicking the offending turf. How he felt, or captain Atherton felt at the close, remains a mystery. Mr D Cork, it seems, is the spokesman on all England matters.

Edgbaston reports, Test scoreboard, page 22

County scoreboard, page 23

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