Cricket: England hesitate in face of history

Third Test: Openers see off West Indies' initial onslaught but Crawley's unnecessary run-out precipitates familiar sense of uncertainty; Rain intervenes as tourists lose momentum after Stewart heroics

West Indies 159 & 210 England 145 & 187-4

FOR the second time in a week, England were balking over beating the West Indies at the Queen's Park Oval. Needing 225 to win, the visitors appeared to be coasting to victory after a century opening stand between Michael Atherton and Alec Stewart had given them the perfect start.

However, two vital wickets by Courtney Walsh and another by Carl Hooper, as well as several stoppages for rain, meant that England were made to inch their way towards levelling this series. And when bad light eventually halted play, England, who had a close call when Mark Butcher was caught off his forearm, still needed 38 runs to win.

However, it was to Butcher's Surrey team-mate Stewart that the day really belonged. Stewart's knock of 83 was a gem among the grit, and when the smile returns to his captain's face, which it should do some time this morning, he will owe his opening partner an enormous debt.

Stewart, himself, considered his innings to be possibly the most vital of his career. "I wouldn't say it was the best I've ever played but I suppose it was the most vital one in terms of the situation and in the context of what this game means to everyone in our squad," he said.

The weather hardly made things easier, either. After play had been held up for almost two hours in the afternoon, just 19 balls were possible before another shower brought the groundstaff scurrying back with the covers. Even so it was a profitable time for England's batsmen, who scored 11 runs, including a meaty cut for four from Butcher.

With the extra hour available, play resumed at 5.10, by which time Walsh and Curtly Ambrose had a new ball in their hands and one that, judging by Graham Thorpe's late reaction to a bouncer, was becoming increasingly difficult to see in the fading light.

The West Indies have not lost a game on this ground for 21 years since Pakistan beat them here in 1977, a record that following a morning session that was all England suddenly began to look in jeopardy.

Yet as England are acutely aware, particularly the six current players who played in the debacle here four years ago, you allow the West Indies through the front door at your peril.

The main reason this has been a low scoring match is that plenty of batsmen on both sides have given their wickets away with appalling shots and options. But although Atherton, Stewart and Nasser Hussain could do little over their dismissals, the same could not be said of John Crawley, whose foolish run-out brought the West Indies' waning self-belief flooding back with a vengeance.

Before Crawley embarked on his fateful second run, England were 144 for 1. Thirteen overs later they were 168 for 4, with Ambrose and Walsh, as well as the gremlins of Port of Spain, gnawing at their heels. But if rain brought time for England to re-group, it also allowed Walsh and Ambrose to rest while the pitch greened up under the covers.

A few hours earlier, it had all looked very different and with two days to score the 173 runs needed at the start of play, there was no need to rush. The first hour's play yielded 36 runs, most of them to Stewart. However, small totals are sometimes flattered by the cautious approach and the England team and their supporters were grateful when Stewart, after a shaky start, began to pierce the ringed field set by Lara.

The Surrey man is at his best with pace on the ball and he began to cut loose soon after England's first scare of the morning when Atherton, scampering back for a second run, narrowly beat Nixon McLean's superb return from long leg. Next ball, with the England captain on 39, the West Indies should have broken through when Atherton cut Walsh straight to Stuart Williams in the gully, who spilled the chance.

By rights, it should have been the wicket that broke the drought and the drop visibly affected the West Indies' morale.

Even for such experienced campaigners as Walsh and Ambrose resolve has its breaking point, and instead of them perhaps reflecting on their storming performance here four years ago, their tired minds would have begun to wander back to their more recent and less savoury experiences in Karachi and Peshawar. However, perhaps with one last hurrah in mind after lunch, which had been brought forward by a brisk shower, Lara alternated his two senior bowlers an over at a time from the Pavilion End.

It is a ploy that Brian Lara used in Perth last winter in 100C heat while Walsh, the captain, was off the field. Whatever his reasons this time, the gambit worked with Walsh finding the edge of Atherton's bat with a beauty that bounced and left the England captain off the pitch.

Before this innings, Atherton had not passed fifty in his last 12 innings. That number has now risen to 13, though his gritty 49 was worth double that in the circumstances.

With one Manchester Grammar old boy being replaced by another, you would have thought that the cerebral side of chasing this target would have been in good hands.

But pressure can do strange things to the coolest of minds, and with John Crawley playing for glory as well as his place in the next Test, the combination proved lethal, and going for a second run that was never on, he was run out by Kenny Benjamin, who was fielding at extra cover.

Mind you with the television replay's angles blocked by static fielders, the decision, although probably the correct one, was based on guesswork which is what the technology is surely meant to eradicate.

While Stewart remained, however, England were still favourites. But in keeping with this incredible Test match, where the favourites have changed almost by the session, the odds shifted when eight runs later Walsh had the England opener caught behind off a similar ball to the one that had done for his captain earlier.

It was an incredible piece of resilience by Walsh, who four balls before getting Stewart had seen Hooper spill him at slip. To come back so soon after such a disappointment was a testament to the bowler's heart, which as captain, had been broken by this side recently in Pakistan.

But if that brought the home crowd to their feet for the first time, they were up again not long after when Hussain, who having just struck Hooper back over his head for four, was out to a grubber from the same bowler that struck him below the bootlaces.

Only more unkind deliveries like that one, can surely prevent England from going to Guyana with the series all square.

Queen's Park Oval Scoreboard

Fourth day; England won toss

WEST INDIES - First innings 159 (A R C Fraser 5-40, A R Caddick 5-67).

ENGLAND - First innings 145 (C E L Ambrose 5-25).

WEST INDIES - Second innings 210 (J C Adams 53).

ENGLAND - Second innings

*M A Atherton c D Williams b Walsh 49

(234 min, 173 balls, 3 fours)

A J Stewart c D Williams b Walsh 83

(300 min, 245 balls, 8 fours)

J P Crawley run out (Benjamin-D Williams; TV replay) 5

(30 min, 20 balls)

N Hussain lbw b Hooper 5

(63 min, 27 balls, 1 four)

G P Thorpe not out 15

(94 mins, 39 balls, 1 four)

M A Butcher not out 9

(65 mins, 40 balls, 1 four)

Extras (b1 lb10 nb10) 21

Total (for 4, 89 overs) 187

Fall: 1-129 (Atherton); 2-145 (Crawley); 3-152 (Stewart); 4-168 (Hussain).

Bowling (to date): Walsh 29-6-61-2 (nb1) (5-2-12-0 3-2-5-0 3-0-8-0 4- 0-15-0 1-0-2-0 1-0-1-1 1-0-1-0 7-1-10-1 4-1-7-0); Ambrose 23-6-38-0 (nb5) (7-3-16-0 4-0-7-0 3-2-1-0 1-1-0-0 1-0-2-0 1-0-4-0 4-0-5-0 2-0-3-0); Benjamin 11-3-24-0 (nb2) (3-0-5-0 5-3-7-0 3-0-12-0); McLean 4-0-17-0 (nb1) (2-0- 4-0 2-0-13-0); Adams 6-3-5-0 (nb1) (3-2-1-0 2-1-2-0 1-0-2-0); Hooper 16- 3-31-1 (2-0-6-0 9-2-14-0 5-1-11-1).

Progress: Third day: 50: 94 min, 21.4 overs. Bad light stopped play at 5.54pm - close 52-0 (Atherton 30, Stewart 14) 25 overs. Fourth day: 100: 183 min, 43.4 overs. Rain stopped play at 11.58am - lunch taken at 122- 0 (Atherton 47, Stewart 64) 53 overs. 150: 287 min, 69.5 overs. Tea: 170- 4 (Thorpe 9, Butcher 1) 81 overs. RSP 4.50-5.15pm 181-4 (Thorpe 14, Butcher 6) 84.1 overs. New ball taken after 84.3 overs at 181-4. BLSP at 5.38pm.

Stewart's 50: 183 min, 142 balls, 6 fours.

Umpires: D B Hair and E Nicholls.

TV Replay Umpire: C E Cumberbatch.

Match Referee: B N Jarman.

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 today
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
Detective Tam Bui works for the Toronto Police force
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
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'