Cricket: Familiar failings bring England down

West Indies 352 & 197 England 170 & 137 West Indies win by 242 runs
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MICHAEL ATHERTON will be feeling the pressure after another failure with the bat consigned his team to defeat, by 242 runs inside four days, in this fourth Test match. As England captain, Atherton has seen the best and worse of his team over the last four days. But if their performance has alternated between the abject and the stoic, the England captain's has remained in the doldrums, and he has now gone 15 Test innings without a half-century.

Only five balls of the day's play remained when Curtly Ambrose had Dean Headley caught at fourth slip to help his side to go 2-1 up in this series. But if defeat for England - needing a massive 380 runs to win - had been expected, the manner, bowled out for 135, less than double the runs the West Indies' last pair had made in the morning, was humiliating.

The England captain was quick to dismiss the suggestion that the outcome of the match had rested on the toss. "It was a good toss to win, but West Indies played much the better cricket and deserved to win.

"I'm disappointed to go 2-1 down, and we know we'll have to win both the remaining Tests now to win the series. What we need to do is to get this game out of our system. We've got happy memories of Barbados and hopefully we can go back there and play good cricket again."

His opposite number, Brian Lara, with a mightier bowling force at his disposal, had a different view. "Winning the toss played a vital part and we knew we had to get a big score in the first innings. Thankfully we did, and while most pitches deteriorate, this one did it quicker than most. We knew that anything over 250 would be difficult to get against our fast bowlers," he said.

"It was a vital win, and we knew that anyone who won here would be looking to hold on to their lead for the rest of the series. It certainly makes Barbados interesting."

For England, however, the West Indies is not a place to have a captain be out of form, especially when rumours of a certain fast bowling duo's decline seems to be about as reliable as the local witch doctor's rain dance. After five months of drought, that has not been something to put your house on.

There is no doubt in the past that the West Indies fast bowlers have deliberately targeted the opposition's captain. This time, however, with Atherton having scored just 95 runs in seven innings, and the pitches on the fruity side of respectable, they have not had to resort to the intimidation of old.

Mind you, the ball from Ambrose, which cut back sharply and kept fractionally low, would have tested anyone irrespective of form, and Atherton is perhaps unfortunate in that there are few hiding places when Ambrose and Courtney Walsh have a new ball in their hands.

In fact, the lbw was a replica of the one that got him at Trinidad four years ago when England collapsed in a heap to 46 all out. If there is a side that could prove that sporting history is cyclical and not linear, it is England.

Needing to score 380 runs, the third highest score in history to win a Test match batting last, or to bat out 153 overs, or 48 more than their longest innings of the series, the task facing England was about as difficult as an asthmatic trying to climb Mt Everest without oxygen. Indeed, on this all but decomposed pitch, some would say it was probably futile and, when Alec Stewart, Nasser Hussain, and Graham Thorpe went in the space of 21 balls to leave England reeling on 28 for 4, memories of that fateful day in Port-of-Spain would, momentarily at least, have flooded back.

Stewart, continuing his marvellous form with a pair of boundaries off Ambrose, was yet another victim of the lbw mania sweeping this match. Missing a leg-side clip off Walsh, to which only the bowler appealed with any venom, Stewart was sent on his way by the umpire, Steve Bucknor.

Two balls later, there was no doubt at all as Hussain, caught between whether to duck or hook, fended the perfect throat ball from Walsh to short leg. Since his fine innings in the first of the two Trinidad Tests, Hussain has not featured and his reputation of an all or nothing man has begun to tilt more towards the latter with this, his second duck of the series.

After Thorpe, another source of concern for England's batting, had gone, taken by Dinanath Ramnarine at leg-gully, a period of relative calm ensued. But if Mark Ramprakash looked as sound as he had done in the first innings, Mark Butcher, twice reprieved, fell to a dubious lbw decision as Carl Hooper ran one on with the arm.

Despite its appearance, and the fact that the rough had swallowed up 80 per cent of the business areas of this pitch, less than an over's worth of deliveries were truly dastardly. The secret of batting on such a pitch, despite powerful urges to the contrary, is to regard the surface as true. But if Ramprakash prospered by doing this better than anyone else in the game, there was little he could do about the leg-cutter from Walsh that finally dismissed him.

For a while Jack Russell, in possibly his last Test, offered a modicum of resistance with Robert Croft. It did not last and with Croft caught behind off Hooper, and Russell going to a brilliant diving catch by Lara as he fenced at Ambrose, the home crowd suddenly came to life.

The day had begun badly for England when they allowed Ramnarine and Ian Bishop, who finished unbeaten on 44, to extend the West Indies lead to 379, although Atherton denied that the stand of 70, a last-wicket record for the West Indies against England, had sown the seeds of his team's batting collapse.

The ease with which Bishop and Ramnarine conducted their business ought to have been a source of comfort to England's batsmen. The trouble is when Ambrose and Walsh - now just shy of 700 Test wickets between them - have their tails up on a disintegrating pitch, theories tend to become rapidly evaluated, and Barbados may see some old ones, such as handing Stewart the gloves, resurrected.


Fourth day; West Indies won toss

WEST INDIES - First Innings 352 (S Chanderpaul 118, B C Lara 93).

ENGLAND - First Innings 170 (M R Ramprakash 64 no).

WEST INDIES - Second Innings

(Overnight: 127 for 9)

I R Bishop not out 44

130 min, 94 balls, 4 fours, 1 six

D Ramnarine c Russell b Headley 19

107 mins, 80 balls, 1 four

Extras (b1, lb11, nb6) 18

Total (318 mins, 72 overs) 197

Bowling: Fraser 11-2-24-1 (nb2) (5-1-13-1 3-0-6-0 3-1-5-0), Headley 13- 5-37-3 (nb1) (5-2-16-1 4-1-10-1 2-1-9-0 2-1-2-1), Croft 22-9-50-3 (1-0- 5-0 5-0-16-0 10-6-18-3 6-3-11-0), Tufnell 24-5-72-1 (nb5) (15-2-44-1 6- 2-24-0 3-1-4-0), Ramprakash 2-1-2-1 (one spell).

Progress (fourth day): 150: 240 min, 53.3 overs. Innings closed: 11.52am.

ENGLAND - Second Innings

*M A Atherton lbw b Ambrose 1

11 min, 10 balls

A J Stewart lbw b Walsh 12

35 min, 29 balls, 2 fours

M A Butcher lbw b Hooper 17

115 min, 67 balls, 2 fours

N Hussain c Adams b Walsh 0

2 min, 2 balls

G P Thorpe c Ramnarine

b Ambrose 3

14 min, 9 balls

M R Ramprakash c D Williams

b Walsh 34

116 min, 111 balls, 5 fours

R C Russell c Lara b Ambrose 17

98 min, 85 balls, 2 fours

R D B Croft c D Williams b Hooper 14

47 min, 34 balls, 3 fours

D W Headley c Chanderpaul

b Ambrose 9

33 min, 24 balls

A R C Fraser c Walsh b Hooper 2

11 min, 7 balls

P C R Tufnell not out 0

13 min, 9 balls

Extras (b9, lb2, w1, nb16) 28

Total (252 min, 62.1 overs) 137

Fall: 1-6 (Atherton), 2-22 (Stewart), 3-22 (Hussain), 4-28 (Thorpe), 5-58 (Butcher), 6-90 (Ramprakash), 7-118 (Croft), 8-125 (Russell), 9-135 (Fraser), 10-137 (Headley).

Bowling: Ambrose 14.1-3-38-4 (nb11) (10-2-25-2, 4.1-1-13-2); Walsh 15- 4-25-3 (nb3) (8-1-14-2, 6-3-10-1, 1-0-1-0); Hooper 18-8-31-3 (9-5-14-1, 3-1-2-0, 6-2-15-2); Bishop 3-1-4-0 (one spell); Ramnarine 11-5-23-0 (w1) (5-2-10-0, 6-3-13-0); Adams 1-0-5-0 (one spell).

Progress: Lunch: 5-0 (Atherton 0, Stewart 4) 1 over. 50: 107 min, 22 overs. Tea: 58-4 (Butcher 17, Ramprakash 10) 27 overs. 100: 196 min, 48.4 overs. Innings closed: 5.14pm.

Umpires: S A Bucknor and D B Hair.

TV replay umpire: P Montfort.

Match referee: B N Jarman.


Man of the match: S Chanderpaul.

Adjudicator: R C Fredericks.