Cricket: England given Philo pasting

Atherton sees hope of squaring series disappear over boundary as West Indies openers turn on venom
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ENGLAND'S hopes of leaving the Caribbean with the series shared were looking non-existent last night after another supreme bowling performance and a destructive batting display by the West Indies. Curtly Ambrose, with 3 for 28, and the leg-spinner Dinanath Ramnarine, with 4 for 29, were the agents of England's demise for just 127, and then the tourists' despair was deepened still further when Philo Wallace and Clayton Lambert got within one run of that total without loss and with maximum venom. Things got even worse when the match referee, Barry Jarman, severley reprimanded Graham Thorpe following the Surrey man's long delay before walking off when given out lbw. There was much to discuss when coach David Lloyd called a lengthy team meeting at the close of play.

This is not the first time that Michael Atherton's team have been caught on the wrong side of the pitch after losing the toss: a similar mismatch occurred in Guyana. Wallace, who scored his second half-century in a row, and Lambert merely rammed the point home by racing past three figures in only the 21st over.

Wallace in particular has an uncomplicated approach to batting: if he can see the ball he hits it hard; if he can't, he hits it even harder. It is a method both Angus Fraser and Andy Caddick have seen before, and one they experienced again, as the pitch, which was by then dry, exhibited little of the spite that had been apparent until just after lunch yesterday. Wallace struck his first ball - off Fraser - to the extra cover boundary before and then deposited Caddick for a mighty six over the perimeter fence at mid-wicket.

In between the carnage - the 50 partnership came off just 44 balls - Atherton, no doubt contemplating once more the cruel complexities of captaining his country, managed to drop Lambert off Fraser in the gully. By Atherton's standards it was a straightforward chance and an early breakthrough - Lambert was on five at the time - would have helped to lift his team, who are now beginning to show the side-effects that tend to afflict sides touring the Caribbean.

Before this match Atherton said that he hoped Lambert and Wallace would continue to play in their swashbuckling manner, as it gave England's bowlers a chance. Well, he got his wish but without a decent total behind them, or a decent slower ball between them, it was simply wishful thinking.

Back on his home ground, Ambrose, so often the wrecker of English hopes, was once again the catalyst for their downfall. Bowling from the Viv Richards Pavilion End, he troubled England's batsmen with an incessant stream of unplayable balls. His menacing presence paved the way for the efforts of others, most notably Ramnarine, as England struggled to come to terms with what was a testing but slowly improving surface.

It was only when Ambrose rested and the ball became softer that the batsmen at last began to enjoy some parity, with Nasser Hussain and Mark Ramprakash both growing in confidence at the crease. During one heady period where Hussain swept and then pulled Ramnarine to the boundary, and Ramprakash did the same to Courtney Walsh, they could even be said to have enjoyed a measure of domination as the 100, so distant when the ball was rearing about on the first day, was posted.

It was, however, the only time on another rain-affected day that England made batting look anything but a game of chance, and the moment appeared and vanished just as quickly as a mirage in the desert when Roland Holder pulled off a stunning diving catch to dismiss Hussain for 37. It proved to be the breach that caused the dam to burst and two balls later Jack Russell, once again selected against the dictates of logic or form, popped up a catch to Lambert at short leg.

Moments afterwards, Ramprakash was gone as well, cutting a long-hop from Walsh to extra cover to leave England struggling for air on 105 for 8. The position was only marginally improved by the tail adding 22.

But the memory of England's innings will be Ambrose. Cutting his pace, he almost made the ball move and talk at the same time, a master at the height of his powers. Expecting the unexpected can play havoc with your wits and judgement, and the pressure Ambrose created proved too much for the nightwatchman, Dean Headley, who steered a perfectly pitched, but non-seaming ball to Brian Lara at first slip. The uncertainty, present since the first over of the match, also began to take its toll on Alec Stewart, who after some stoic efforts on the poor surfaces in Trinidad and Georgetown, appeared to have had some of the stuffing knocked out of him here. A gutsy fighter, Stewart looked much more hesitant than of late, though the potential heart-stopper Ambrose hit him with on the first day probably accomplished that at a stroke.

Replacing Walsh, who bowled far shorter than the conditions demanded, Franklyn Rose came on for his first bowl of the series. Quite why the strapping fast bowler wasn't preferred to Ian Bishop for the earlier matches is not known, but his efforts here were impressive. With a natural inclination to swing the ball away, he drew Stewart across his stumps before beating him on the inside to bowl him between bat and pad.

Although the survival instinct remains strongest in such situations, England needed runs as well. Nevertheless, when the moment to attack arrived - when Ramnarine replaced Ambrose - over-eagerness prevailed and the home side were promptly gifted a wicket. For a batsman who looks so composed against the world's most fearsome fast bowlers, Thorpe has an annoying habit of getting out to spinners of little repute. Mind you the lbw seemed to come off the inside edge, and Thorpe hung around long enough to make the point to umpire Cyril Mitchley, something he was later made to regret.

The dismissal was, like everything else on the pitch, much dissected by television, a medium which itself was the centre of some attention with the news that an Advisory Group set up by the Heritage Secretary Chris Smith has recommended that as long as some form of coverage remains on terrestrial television, rights to live matches can be auctioned in the open market place.

This may not produce as much money as people expect. In the past Sky's voracious pursuit of live events was an attempt to build up a significant audience. Now that they have achieved that, cricket may not find them willing to pay the sums they once had in mind.

Henry Blofeld, page 22

Sixth Test scoreboard

West Indies won toss

England - First innings

*M A Atherton c Ramnarine b Ambrose 15

(59 min, 43 balls, 1 four; attempted drive to swinging ball, edged to gully)

A J Stewart b Rose 22

(156 min, 95 balls, 2 fours; bowled between bat and pad attempting to drive)

M A Butcher c Lara b Ambrose 0

(2 min, 3 balls; flashed at wide ball, edged to second slip)

D W Headley c Lara b Ambrose 1

(50 min, 39 balls; prodded seaming ball to slip)

N Hussain c Holder b Ramnarine 37

(152 min, 124 balls, 3 fours; outstanding catch at deep square off attempted sweep)

G P Thorpe lbw b Ramnarine 5

(15 balls, 1 four; beaten on back foot by spinning ball)

M R Ramprakash c Chanderpaul b Walsh 14

(94 min, 62 balls; cut wide long-hop straight to extra cover)

R C Russell c Lambert b Ramnarine 0

(2 min, 2 balls; simple bat-pad to short leg)

A R Caddick c Walsh b Ramnarine 8

(24 min, 17 balls, 1 four; miscued attempted lofted drive to long-on)

A R C Fraser b Walsh 9

(32 min, 25 balls, 1 four; deflected lifting ball off right elbow on to off-stump)

P C R Tufnell not out 2

(14 min, 11 balls)

Extras (b1, lb2, nb11) 14

Total (all out, 70.5 overs, 309 min) 127

Fall: 1-27 (Atherton), 2-27 (Butcher), 3-38 (Headley), 4-57 (Stewart), 5-66 (Thorpe), 6-105 (Hussain); 7-105 (Russell), 8-105 (Ramprakash), 9- 117 (Caddick), 10-127 (Fraser).

Bowling: Walsh 25.5-8-52-2 (nb3) (10-2-22-0 4-3-1-0 3-1-3-0 8.5-2-26- 2), Ambrose 17-6-28-3 (nb5) (9-3-13-2 8-3-15-1), Ramnarine 17-5-29-4 (2- 1-1-0 4-0-4-1 3-1-6-0 8-3-18-3), Hooper 1-1-0-0, Rose 9-4-14-1 (nb3), Lambert 1-0-1-0 (one spell each).

West Indies - First Innings

C B Lambert not out 46

(128 min, 89 balls, 7 fours, 1 six)

P A Wallace not out 67

(128 min, 82 balls, 10 fours, 1 six)

Extras (lb6,nb7) 13

Total (for 0, 128 min, 27 overs) 126

Bowling: Caddick 4-0-27-0, Fraser 4-0-20-0, Headley 8-0-34-0 (nb7), Tufnell 9-1-33-0 (nb2), Ramprakash 2-0-6-0 (one spell each).

Progress: 50 in 37 min, 7.2 overs. 100 in 100 min, 20.2 overs. Bad light stopped play 5.58pm.

Wallace 50 in 87 min, 51 balls, 8 fours, 1 six.

To bat: *B C Lara, S Chanderpaul, C L Hooper, R I C Holder, J R Murray, C E L Ambrose, F A Rose, D Ramnarine, C A Walsh.

Umpires: S A Bucknor and C J Mitchley TV Replays: P Whyte Referee: B N Jarman.