Cricket: England hit pocket of resistance: Victorious tourists arrive for final Test in fine spirits while disgruntled West Indies are just fined

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The Independent Online
THERE was the hint of a stagger about both teams as they arrived in Antigua for the final Test match, but it would scarcely have been conceivable a week ago that England's unsteady gait was to have something to do with a surfeit of champagne, while the opposition's was the result of being on the receiving end of one of international cricket's bigger upsets in recent memory.

There was nothing much wrong with a rejuvenated England that a couple of aspirins would not have put right, but the West Indies' deflated morale is not only the result of carrying slightly heavier hearts, but also substantially lighter wallets.

Their dreadful over-rate resulted in them all being fined 65 per cent of their Barbados match fee (around pounds 2,000) by the International Cricket Council's New Zealand referee, John Reid, and Curtly Ambrose also picked up a separate individual bill of pounds 1,000 and a lecture from Reid for the 'senseless' one- handed swish which meant that Alec Stewart had to do no more to collect his souvenir stump than bend down from his fielding position next to the square- leg umpire.

The stump certainly travelled further than any of England's when Ambrose was wreaking havoc with the ball in Trinidad and the West Indian Cricket Board is apparently taking a dim view of it. This is fair enough, although if Ambrose's stump demolition was meant to be a comment on how he thought his batsmen had performed, he deserves a certain amount of sympathy.

As stump-wrecking goes, it was in a far higher class than Keith Fletcher's Bangalore bail-flick in 1981, although it would have to rank below Chris Broad in Sydney in 1988, who could scarcely have committed more damage if he had used a hand grenade rather than a Duncan Fearnley 3lb Magnum.

However, the record for sheer volume of wreckage is held by another West Indian, Philo Wallace, who was so brassed off by an umpiring decision in a Red Stripe Cup game last season that he laid waste the stumps at both ends. As for maximum carnage without using a weapon, that goes to Michael Holding, who once used his right boot - in much the same way as a goalkicker at Twickenham - to convert a stump for three points against New Zealand: Kiwis as opposed to All Blacks.

Whether this will ever catch on as a spectator sport, it certainly provided extra entertainment for the small army of England supporters who have now followed their island-hopping team to Antigua for the final Test of the tour, which gets under way tomorrow.

If anyone has brought a smile to West Indian faces in the past week, it is England's crimson-faced, ample-bellied, flag-waving followers. They have never had such a five-day attendance in Barbados and the West Indian Board, not to mention the bar owners and Mini-Moke hirers, have been coining it for all they are worth.

The same will apply here in Antigua, although whether England can once again inspire the 'here we go' brigade to drown out the steel bands is open to question. The West Indies fifth-day performance was lazier than most of the island's holidaymakers and Ambrose's stump propulsion suggests that they have been hurt by it enough to come out firing again tomorrow morning.

It is in England's favour that the West Indies will have to do so without their captain, although it is perhaps not in their favour that the toss might now be conducted by someone who is less likely to do something pretty bizarre should he win the toss. The logic behind Richie Richardson's decisions in all three of the last Tests has baffled most observers, and in the last game his players finally failed to bail him out.

Richardson's hamstring injury is too severe for him to play and the West Indies are now waiting to see whether Desmond Haynes, the vice-captain, is fit enough to lead the side after struggling through Barbados with five stitches in his right index finger. As Chris Lewis was also responsible for that, as well as removing Ambrose's middle stump by more conventional methods, he effectively started and ended England's march to victory, albeit without doing much in between.

Phil Simmons is likely to be a straight replacement for Richardson, although Roland Holder, the Barbados captain, and Stuart Williams, the talented opener from Nevis who spanked a century in the tour game in Grenada, are decent enough options. The bowling is unlikely to alter, apart perhaps from an increase in velocity brought about by wounded pride. However, there seems to be nothing the West Indies can do about their no-ball problems.

It comes as no surprise that the world record no-ball count for a Test came in this part of the world, when 103 were delivered during the West Indies-Pakistan game in Barbados in 1977. In the last Test, the tally was 97, which, with the West Indies contributing 74 of them, is why most of their money has now been re-routed to the ICC's coffers.