Cricket: Curtly's West Indian sign

Third Test: Ambrose takes his wicket haul to five to break England's fighting spirit as Lara prepares to pounce
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The Independent Online
THE spectre of the Queen's Park Oval struck again yesterday, as England were bowled out for 145, the victims once more of Curtly Ambrose, who took 5 for 25. The West Indies, batting for the second time in the match, then extended their lead to 85 runs by the close.

It was the 20th time Ambrose has taken five wickets in an innings for the West Indies, an achievement that was trumped by the fact that he is now his country's highest wicket-taker against England, beating Malcolm Marshall's 127 wickets.

Seldom have a team's hopes of staying in a series rested so crucially on a day's cricket as England's did yesterday in Port of Spain. But the early signs were not promising, as Ambrose bowled Dean Headley with the fourth ball of the day, and they became worse as England abetted their demise with a series of soft dismissals.

To win this match and get back into the series, England really needed a first innings lead of around 100. Instead, with Ambrose renewing his love affair with this ground they found themselves conceding a 14-run deficit.

It was a disappointing position and one that had worsened - even after the early dismissal of Stuart Williams, well held by Michael Atherton in the gully - when the West Indies got their second innings off to a flying start, courtesy of some wayward bowling from Caddick.

To frustrate matters further, England twice came close to dismissing Brian Lara, who led a charmed life as he and Sherwin Campbell, later dismissed by Angus Fraser, extended the home side's lead.

Ambrose the destroyer sounds like a Pagan deity and while he is older and slower than he was, he is still the main reason there is a disparity between these two sides. It is England's bad luck to have played back to back Tests here on his favourite Caribbean ground.

However, with even the laymen acquainted with such knowledge it was a major surprise that his captain chose to rest him from 10.43am until half an hour before tea, by which time England had faced 42 overs from the other bowlers, including 17 overs of spin, the latter a sure-fire sign that this pitch does not contain the demons the low scores suggest.

This was not the first bizarre incident in Brian Lara's brief time as captain, though it certainly rivalled for daftness his decision not to give Ambrose and Courtney Walsh the new ball in England's second innings during the last Test.

When play began, it was a different matter. On a pitch freshened slightly after spending the night under a plastic sheet, England's batsmen experienced Ambrose at his finest, as the tall pace bowler regularly found the extravagant seam movement that had eluded others.

Loping in from the Northern End, and with the air fairly crackling with anticipation, Ambrose dented England's confidence with an immediate strike against their nightwatchman.

The loss was distinctly unhelpful to England's incoming batsman, and instead of arriving to face a tiring bowler, Nasser Hussain was greeted by a torrent of near unplayable deliveries which, having edged one just short of Lara at first slip, he was fortunate to survive.

Mind you, he was unlucky to be given out, too, and having finally got himself away from the relentless Ambrose, he found the Guyanese umpire, Eddie Nicholls, eager to give him out caught behind to a ball from Courtney Walsh that television showed had patently missed the edge of his bat. Disappointed, Hussain stood his ground, and he may yet be fined for dissent after muttering something in the umpire's direction.

As it so often does, the fightback came from Alec Stewart, who having survived a big appeal for caught behind off Walsh, decided the best way to try and dig England out of their hole was to play some shots.

With the listing ship briefly stabilised at the other end by Graham Thorpe's reassuringly straight bat, Stewart promptly took two fours off Walsh, a crisp pull past mid-wicket being followed by a sumptuous on-drive back towards the Queen's Park Cricket Club pavilion.

While Ambrose rested, the deficit fell below a hundred runs, and for a brief moment the Surrey men looked in control. You relax at your peril against these opponents, and as so often happens, the breakthrough came not from the strike force, but from the back-up troops.

Carl Hooper, for all his casual airs, is not a spin bowler to be trifled with, though many have tried. After a torrid morning Stewart tried as well, the temptation to try to score some quick runs before lunch proving terminal as he edged behind trying to force through the covers.

It was almost a mirror dismissal of the one that befell Thorpe in the first Test here. Unfortunately for England, Thorpe, having put on 31 with Mark Butcher, then repeated the mistake, as he slashed at a short one from Hooper.

The trend for soft dismissals continued despite Ambrose's return. Turning to Jimmy Adams' left-arm spin, Lara once again hit paydirt when Butcher, having been watchful for five balls of the over, chipped the last one back to a disbelieving bowler.

Two overs later, Andy Caddick, needlessly ran himself out, though quite how the third umpire, Clyde Cumberbatch, could make the decision, given that the TV replays and camera angles were inconclusive was a mystery to all those privy to them.

With the West Indies collapsing on the first day and several England batsmen falling to spin, it is difficult to explain the course this match has taken.

As it is, if there was a glimmer of hope when the first day ended well for England, it had just about been extinguished by the time West Indies, with eight second innings wickets remaining, finished the day 85 runs ahead.

Third Test scoreboard

England won toss

West Indies - First Innings

S L Campbell c Thorpe b Fraser 28

(128 min, 88 balls, 4 fours; edged seaming ball to first slip)

S C Williams c Thorpe b Caddick 24

(68 min, 48 balls, 2 fours; edged seaming ball to first slip)

*B C Lara c Russell b Fraser (TV replay) 42

(91 min, 53 balls, 7 fours; edged attempted pull to wicketkeeper)

C L Hooper c Butcher b Fraser 1

(12 min, 11 balls; outstanding catch to loose drive)

S Chanderpaul lbw b Fraser 28

(158 min, 111 balls, 1 four; trapped by shooter)

J C Adams c Atherton b Caddick 11

(109 min, 71 balls; outstanding catch at short extra to firm push)

D Williams b Caddick 0

(1 min, 1 ball; cleaned up by yorker)

C E L Ambrose b Caddick 4

(8 min, 3 balls, 1 four; bowled through gate on back-foot defensive)

K C G Benjamin lbw b Caddick 0

(3 min, 2 balls; trapped by seaming ball)

N A M McLean c Headley b Fraser 11

(30 min, 13 balls; slogged to deep mid-off)

C A Walsh not out 5

(16 min, 9 balls

Extras (nb5) 5

Total (317 min, 67.4 overs) 159

Fall: 1-36 (S Williams), 2-93 (Campbell), 3-95 (Hooper), 4-100 (Lara), 5-132 (Adams), 6-132 (D Williams), 7-140 (Ambrose), 8-140 (Benjamin), 9-150 (Chanderpaul), 10-159 (McLean).

Bowling: Headley 14-0-40-0 (nb2) (5-0-18-0 3-0-11-0 6-0-11-0), Caddick 22-7-67-5 (4-2-9-0 5-1-13-1 5-2-22-0 2-1-4-0 6-1-19-4), Fraser 20.4-8- 40-5 (nb2) (7-2-18-0 7-4-9-3 6.4-2-13-2), Tufnell 9-5-11-0 (nb1) (3-2- 3-0 6-3-8-0), Butcher 2-1-1-0 (1-1-0-0 1-0-1-0).

England - First Innings

*M A Atherton lbw b Ambrose 2

(15 min, 11 balls; beaten on back foot by shooting delivery)

A J Stewart c D Williams b Hooper 44

(167 min, 112 balls, 4 fours; limp push to straight good-length ball)

J P Crawley b Ambrose 1

(29 min, 16 balls; beaten by fast, seaming ball)

D W Headley b Ambrose 1

(20 min, 17 balls; stumps shattered by fast straight ball)

N Hussain c D Williams b Walsh 0

(20 min, 14 balls; thinnest of edges through to keeper)

G P Thorpe c D Williams b Hooper 32

(127 min, 88 balls, 2 fours; edged attempted cut to wicket-keeper)

M A Butcher c and b Adams 28

(121 min, 104 balls, 2 fours; chipped tamely back to bowler)

R C Russell not out 20

A R Caddick run out (Lara-Adams; TV replay) 0

(10 min, 4 balls; sent back trying to steal quick single to backward point)

A R C Fraser c and b Ambrose 5

(16 min, 10 balls, 1 four; chipped yorker back to bowler)

P C R Tufnell lbw b Ambrose 0

(I min, I ball; trapped on crease by fast straight ball)

Extras (b1, lb4, nb7) 12

Total (317 min, 71.4 overs) 145

Fall: 1-5 (Atherton), 2-15 (Crawley), 3-22 (Headley), 4 27 (Hussain), 5-71 (Stewart), 6-101 (Thorpe), 7-134 (Butcher), 8-135 (Caddick), 9-145 (Fraser), 10-145 (Tufnell).

Bowling: Walsh 17-4-35-1 (14-4-32-1 2-0-2-0 1-0-1-0), Ambrose 15.4-5- 25-5 (nb6) (11-5-10-3 4.4-0-15-2), McLean 9-2-23-0 (5-2-7-0 4-0-16-0), Benjamin 13-3-34-0 (nb2) (4-0-16-0 9-3-18-0), Hooper 15-3-23-2, Adams 2-2-0-1 (one spell each).

West Indies - Second Innings

S L Campbell lbw b Fraser 13

(108 min, 64 balls, 1 four; beaten on back foot by ball keeping low)

S C Williams c Atherton b Caddick 23

(29 min, 17 balls, 3 fours; slashed wide long-hop to gully)

* B C Lara not out 30

(88 min, 62 balls, 4 fours)

K C G Benjamin not out 0

(9 min, 8 balls)

Extras (lb4, nb1) 5

Total (for 2, 25 overs) 71

Fall: 1-27 (Williams), 2-66 (Campbell).

Bowling: Caddick 9-3-34-1 (5-1-23-1 4-2-11-0), Fraser 8-2-16-1 (7-1-16- 0 1-1-0-1), Headley 8-2-17-0 (nb1) (one spell).

Umpires: D B Hair and E Nicholls TV Replay Umpire: C E Cumberbatch.

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