Bishop repays tourists' faith

Tony Cozier applauds the spirit of the man who upset the home order
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The Independent Online
ENGLAND had no price against fast bowling of such hostility and quality on a pitch of such generous pace and bounce.

Batsmen never do in such circumstances, whether the combination coming from them at both ends is Larwood and Voce or Hall and Griffith, Lillee and Thomson or Holding and Roberts.

In recent times, the tormentor-in-chief has been Curtly Ambrose with his seven for 1 spell that skittled Australia on a similarly encouraging surface in Perth in early 1993 and his demolition jobs on England and Australia in Port of Spain over the last two years. The gangling Antiguan was absent yesterday, watching the mayhem from beyond the boundary, so it was Ian Bishop who joined the wily Courtney Walsh to expose England's soft underbelly.

Bishop's return, after two and a half years, has given the West Indies an incalculable boost. He has immediately proved that his lay-off has had little adverse effect on his bowling but it is his very presence in the dressing-room as much as on the field that has made the difference.

He is a calm, level-headed individual guided by his strong Christian faith and he commands immense respect from his team-mates who marvel at his courage in coming back from not one, but two, serious back injuries.

It is the kind of respect that Walsh has had for many years. He is, in Richie Richardson's phrase, "a treasure", a bowler his captain can throw the ball to in any given situation and be certain he will respond.

Bishop charged in from the City End and hurled the ball down at frightening speed, unsettling lower-order batsmen simply not equipped to cope. Even the plucky Robin Smith was so rattled from a succession of body-blows that he finally diverted the ball back into his stumps through sheer confusion. It was an appropriate wicket to bring up Bishop's 100 in his 21st Test. He is still only 27, and the West Indies have fingers firmly crossed that his back now stands up for the rest of his career.

There will scarcely be a delivery this series as fast or as wicked as Bishop's almost perpendicular lifter that carried over 30 yards after taking the forearm guard.

At the opposite end, Walsh trundled in, adhering to a fuller length against batsmen pushed on to the back foot by Bishop. He varied his pace and his angles and was always a handful. His dispatch of Darren Gough was classic fast bowling, a throttling bouncer one ball that was fended into gully's lap only to be cancelled out by a no-ball call followed by a fuller delivery that a very tentative bat guided to the same fielder.

Even given that things suited them literally down to the ground, this was a stirring recovery by the West Indies. They came to Edgbaston after an especially rough week, beaten by England at Lord's, crushed by Sussex, a middle-of-the-table county side, and beset by internal difficulties that had led to the expulsion of one of their recalcitrant senior players.

Captain Richardson and the managers Wes Hall and Andy Roberts have worked wonders to lift morale within a few days. The West Indies will be hard- pressed to stop now, whatever Ray Illingworth orders the groundsmen to concoct.