INJURIES and draws are two of the immutable downsides of cricket, and England looked like being the victims of both yesterday, as news of Darren Gough's decision to remain at home filtered through to Georgetown, where his team-mates attempted to force victory on the final day of their game against Guyana.
Gough, who withdrew from the tour party to have surgery on his left hamstring tendon, had been hoping to be fit for the latter half of the tour. Instead, he has decided to remain at home in order to continue with a rehabilitation programme aimed at making him fully fit for the start of the season.
Speaking yesterday, the chairman of selectors, David Graveney, said: "We have tried to keep the way open for Darren to join the tour for as long as possible, but after a lay-off of this length and with an intensive international programme over the next 12 months, it seems pointless to rush him back.
"Darren remains very much a key player in our long-term plans and, being positive about his lay-off, we are expecting it will ensure he starts the new season fresh and full of his familiar enthusiasm and vigour."
For his part, Gough, who has endured almost as much anguish from injury as Angus Fraser, must now take inspiration from the way the tall Middlesex bowler, with 20 wickets in two Tests, has resurrected his Test career.
"It is obviously disappointing, to have finally been ruled out of the tour," said Gough from his Yorkshire home. "But in the long term I know it makes sense. With my rehabilitation going well, I can't wait for the new season to put this problem behind me and start taking wickets for Yorkshire and England again."
Ironically, it was wickets that his team-mates needed yesterday, but on a pitch now keeping low as well as turning, they proved elusive until Adam Hollioake, fielding at midwicket, caught Nicholas de Groot as the opener loosely clipped Phil Tufnell off his legs.
As so often happens after a lengthy stand, one wicket brings two or three and Tufnell struck again almost immediately when he had the left-handed Clayton Lambert caught at leg gully by Michael Atherton. Lambert, who is amply padded like the Michelin Man, was coasting along nicely until Tufnell, who bowled disappointingly in the first innings, began to find his mark.
Sensing he was about to be upstaged after his fine showing in the first innings, Robert Croft weighed in with two wickets of his own. Bowling once more into the sea breeze, it was Croft's dipping flight that brought him success, as Keith Semple prodded off bat and pad to short leg.
Eight runs later, Ramnaresh Sarwan followed as he drove uppishly to midwicket where Alec Stewart, fielding for John Crawley who is ill in bed with sinusitis, took the catch.
When Travis Dowlin was out, lbw playing back to Tufnell, and Neil McGarrell was bowled by Croft, Guyana were 109 for 6 and only 54 runs ahead. Suddenly the draw did not look the certainty it had appeared two hours earlier, at which time the most exciting thing had been the parade of motorised floats at the back of the ground, celebrating Mashramani or Republic Day.
Earlier, England ideally looking for lead of about 150, had batted on, presumably with the intention of bowling Guyana out in under two sessions. To achieve that they needed Mark Ramprakash to convert his overnight score of 68 into a century and Robert Croft to get at least 50.
In the event neither achieved their goal, Ramprakash caught behind as he chased a wide one, and Croft bowled by McGarrell, as he tried to force the pace. With both Chris Silverwood and Tufnell becoming victims as well, both for ducks, McGarrell completed a memorable match, as he finished with career-best figures of 7 for 71.
Final day (tea); Guyana won toss
GUYANA - First Innings 184 (V Nagamootoo 55; R D B Croft 6-50).
ENGLAND - First Innings
(Overnight: 200 for 6)
M R Ramprakash c V Naganmootoo
b Stuart 77
R D B Croft b McGarrell 32
A P Cowan not out 13
C E W Silverwood b McGarrell 0
P C R Tufnell b McGarrell 0
Extras (b8, lb5, w7, nb2) 22
Total (111.2 overs) 239
Fall (cont): 6-148, 7-219, 8-231, 9-231.
Bowling: King 20-7-50-1; Stuart 24-5-49-1; McGarrell 40.2-11-71-7; M V Nagamootoo 24-9-52-1; Chanderpaul 1-0-1-0; Dowlin 2-0-3-0.
GUYANA - Second Innings
C B Lambert c Atherton b Tufnell 35
N A de Groot c Hollioake b Tufnell 35
K F Semple c Hollioake b Croft 3
R Sarwan c Sub b Croft 1
*S Chanderpaul not out 24
T Dowlin lbw b Tufnell 3
N C McGarrell b Croft 5
V Nagamootoo not out 0
Extras (b2, lb1) 3
Total (for 6) 109
Fall: 1-71, 2-72, 3-76, 4-83, 5-86, 6-109.
To bat: M V Nagamootoo, C E L Stuart, R D King.
Umpires: P Monfort and E Hinds.