Cricket: Evidence of new will to win

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The evidence of the first two days at Lord's has shown that the England players are starting to learn to fight harder. There were still some poor strokes and sacrificed wickets but the batsmen seem to be selling themselves more dearly and the bowlers have been less profligate.

The batsmen are benefiting from the advice and guidance of their coach, John Edrich, who sold his wicket as dearly as even his long-time partner, Geoffrey Boycott. Peter Lever, who is in charge of the bowlers, has also obviously been underlining the first principles of bowling - length and line.

This is not a good Lord's pitch, with the ball already keeping low, but often surfaces which are imperfect produce more fascinating cricket than games which depend on declarations and mountains of runs.

The best players should be able to adapt their skills and cope with every challenge. But because of covered pitches bad-wicket batsmanship is in danger of becoming a lost art.

Although Tests between England and the West Indies have been mostly one- sided in recent years, the progress of this second Test has brought to mind one of the most exciting Test matches of all time, against the West Indies at Lord's in 1963 - another low to medium-scoring game on a seam bowlers' pitch.

It ended in the perfect draw when, with the last ball of the match to be bowled, all four results were possible. England needed six runs to win with one wicket standing, and the batsman at the non-strikers' end, Colin Cowdrey, had his arm in plaster having had it broken earlier in the innings by Wes Hall.

As the last over began, eight runs were needed with two wickets left. The first three balls produced two runs, Derek Shackleton was run out from the next and Cowdrey had come out preparing to bat one-handed and left-handed if need be. As it was, David Allen coped with the last two balls.

England's first innings contained one of the most heroic innings ever played in Test cricket. Ted Dexter, batting in appalling light against the fierce pace of Hall and Charlie Griffith, made 70 breathtaking runs. He drove, hooked and cut the fast bowlers in as ferocious a display of controlled hitting as one could wish to see.

No talk of the West Indies at Lord's would be complete without mention of Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine, their legendary spinners, in the second Test in 1950. The West Indies won by 326 runs, their first victory in a Test match in England, and the English batsmen were tortured and mesmerised.

Ramadhin had figures of 115-70-152-11 and Valentine 116-75-127-7. Just over 63 per cent of their 231 overs were maidens as they spun their way through England. Even the wicketkeeper Clyde Walcott admitted to not knowing which way Ramadhin would turn the ball.