Cricket: Atherton's sign of victory

Fifth Test: England captain rides controversy as bowlers recover touch and Lara's lapse provides launchpad

THE controversy that has accompanied Michael Atherton's time as captain returned yesterday, following the appearance of photographs apparently showing the England captain flicking a V-sign at Philo Wallace in several tabloid newspapers. But two-fingered salutes are often ambiguous, and it was the one made famous by Winston Churchill rather than Harvey Smith which was the more appropriate after England dismissed the West Indies for 262, to gain a first-innings lead of 141.

Throughout his tenure as captain Atherton's timing for the faux pas has been immaculate. With England chasing the series here and with his own batting form close to an all-time low, this latest episode simply provided more rope to those who wish to hang him. Yet whatever your personal thoughts on the man, Atherton is a dedicated leader and yesterday he rallied his troops with panache. And while the captain pulled the right strings, his troops - especially the bowlers - made all the right moves as teamwork triumphed over individual glory.

After the pyrotechnics of Friday evening, when the West Indies added 80 in 20 overs, the pace of play was far more sedate yesterday and suited England better. However, even more important than tethering the scoring rate - which was largely stemmed by Phil Tufnell bowling unchanged from the Pavilion End for the entire morning session - was the priceless wicket of Brian Lara.

When the local pundits first saw this pitch they widely predicted a double century for the West Indies captain. It looked to be a serious possibility, too, until he was tempted into an extravagant drive by a wideish delivery from Dean Headley and laced the ball straight to Mark Butcher at extra cover.

This time, there was no gesticulating from England, just the rampant celebration of a team who had just realised that their greatest obstacle to victory had made a terrible mistake. For the home side, it was a blow from which they never really recovered and none of the other batsmen were able to break the stranglehold created by Tufnell and his colleagues. Bowling into a stiff breeze, and getting some regular turn, it was Tufnell who had managed to strike first, when he had the nightwatchman Ian Bishop caught behind by Jack Russell.

Four years ago, Tufnell did a similar job here. Certain memories linger in the mind, but none would have been lodged as deeply as that harboured by Clayton Lambert since his debut at The Oval in 1991, when he was caught trying to slog Tufnell's first ball out of the ground. That had been an ignominious end, but as hard as Tufnell tried to tease and tempt the left- hander into repeating the indiscretion, the deeper Lambert dug himself in and by lunch he had added just 12 runs to his overnight score. Later, the Guyanese batsman finally reached his maiden Test fifty before edging Andy Caddick low to Russell.

But if pace was accounting for the majority of wickets, it was the effectiveness of spin that surprised many, and Mark Ramprakash, bowling in sunglasses, also gained substantial turn with his off-breaks. With England squandering several half chances off the Middlesex captain - the easiest being Butcher's spill at short-leg when Roland Holder was on five - it became clear that both captains had misread this pitch: Lara with his insertion of England and Atherton in his exclusion of Robert Croft.

Mind you, some would argue that Ramprakash, with only one previous Test wicket at an average of 151, to his name, looked as threatening as any specialist bowler would have done. Wheeling away from the Northern End, he doubled his tally when Holder, clearly under pressure from the turning ball, heaved wildly at the Middlesex captain, and was bowled.

Meanwhile, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, making the most of a near miss on 17 when he popped up a catch towards Butcher at silly point, as well as a bad drop by Russell when on 40, kept the home side's total moving. The spill by Russell was simply the latest in a tour chock full of elementary wicket-keeping errors, and while apologists have pointed out the difficulties of keeping on pitches of erratic bounce, there is nothing wrong with the surface here, a point Russell himself later proved when he stumped Curtly Ambrose easily enough.

Although Chanderpaul can sometimes be unassuming to the point of anonymity, you underestimate him at your peril and it took a poor decision by umpire Eddie Nicholls to make good Russell's miss, after an edge induced by Fraser was shown to have bounced on its way to Alec Stewart at second slip.

There was nothing controversial about the next dismissal, though, and David Williams further confirmed the fluke status of his match-winning 65 in the first Trinidad Test when he scythed Caddick to cover for two.

A few overs later, Hooper had gone too, lbw shuffling across his crease, the latest victim of Fraser's honest line and length. It left the West Indies looking decidedly sickly on 221 for 7, symptoms briefly relieved when Ambrose hit a breezy 26 before falling to Tufnell.

When Courtney Walsh was caught and bowled by Headley, to give the bowler figures of 3 for 64, England had a first-innings lead of 141, a situation in stark contrast to the start of the day when the Atherton incident threatened to mar the stoic fightback engineered by Ramprakash and Graham Thorpe.

The V-sign incident, which happened after Wallace had got the West Indies innings off to a flying start with some insolent hitting late on Friday afternoon, was caught by both still and television cameras. The action was badly misjudged, but it was not overly malicious, and the England captain was later cleared of any impropriety by the match referee, Barry Jarman.

"The picture means nothing to me," said Jarman, a former Australian Test wicket-keeper. "He could be asking for two legs [a batting guard]. So what? I'm only going to get involved if they start punching each other. So far I've had no official complaint from either the umpires or the West Indies."

A similarly pragmatic line was taken by the England team manager, Bob Bennett, who said: "Having spoken to Michael Atherton, I am content that there was no intent on his part to insult or offend. There has been no complaint from the West Indies or the match referee. Therefore we consider the matter closed."

It will be long forgotten, too, should England go on to win here, which is now an outcome that seems far more likely than when the captain first proffered his thoughts on the match via his fingers.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
Sport
SPORT
News
people
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Biggins as Mrs Smee in Peter Pan
theatreHow do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick