Cricket / First Test: England face uphill battle: Adams left five short of century as West Indies pile on the agony

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England . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .234 and 80-4

West Indies . . . . . . . . . . . . .407

MIKE ATHERTON discovered yesterday that the West Indians' promise to head-hunt the England captain on this tour has literal as well as metaphorical connotations. Atherton was given a fearful going- over by the West Indian pace bowlers, and at one stage needed to change a dented helmet as his team slid towards defeat in the first Test match. At 80 for 4 in their second innings, England go into today's rest day still needing another 93 to make the home team bat again.

When England began their second innings facing a deficit of 173, they squandered a fluent start when Alec Stewart was the victim of a crass run-out, and after Robin Smith was caught at short leg ducking away from a short one from Courtney Walsh, the West Indian attack went looking for Atherton.

Walsh had Atherton spreadeagled in the crease on several occasions, but it was Winston Benjamin who almost decapitated the England captain with a snorting delivery that crunched into the side of the helmet grille, and caused Atherton to remove his headgear gingerly to check whether his head was still inside it.

Smith had come in at No 3 in place of Graham Thorpe, who had gone to hospital for X-rays on his right hand after dropping a catch earlier in the day. The verdict on Thorpe was bad bruising, but when Atherton fell to another vicious delivery from Walsh, the X-ray verdict on England was dangerously close to fractured morale.

Walsh, generating tremendous pace, made another one climb towards Atherton's head; this time Atherton's reflex jerk produced a catch via the bat handle to short leg to leave England 58 for 3.

This then became 63 for 4 when Matthew Maynard was caught behind off Winston Benjamin, but when England's pace bowlers were operating, the pitch looked as flat as the spirits of the England supporters.

It has not taken long for England to translate the type of bowling that Rodney Marsh identified as 'pie throwing' during last summer's Ashes debacle into its Jamaican equivalent. They bake a very nice pattie in downtown Kingston, and England's attack raided the vendors' stalls so thoroughly that, metaphorically speaking, Sabina Park was knee-deep in beef and shortcrust pastry yesterday.

Apart from isolated outbreaks of competence, England's bowling was even worse than on Sunday, when Keith Arthurton and Brian Lara very nearly burst their braces on a diet of half-volleys. Overnight, this strategy was cunningly altered to the long hop and the bouncer that mostly lollipopped through to the wicketkeeper, and England were fortunate that late-order West Indian indiscipline limited their first-innings deficit to 173.

From that sort of position, the last thing England needed was to donate the West Indies a wicket, which is precisely what, after a fluent start of 34 in 10 overs, they did. Stewart, having driven Courtney Walsh through mid-off, set off blind for a third run, and Kenny Benjamin ran him out with a direct hit at the bowler's end.

When the West Indies resumed on 238 for 4, a lead of only three, England's prospects of getting out of jail largely depended on the second new ball. Devon Malcolm and Andrew Caddick took it, and proceeded to squander it by banging it in half-way down.

The West Indian batsmen were thereby left with as little to play at as opposing batsmen normally are against their own attack, and, as a result, only 18 runs had been added in 13 overs when Arthurton failed to get over an open-faced steer at a ball from Malcolm angled across the left-hander, and Chris Lewis took an athletic catch at backward point. Athletic, however, was not an adjective that could have been applied to Lewis's bowling.

While Jimmy Adams, 21 overnight, added 63 in company with Junior Murray, and 70 with Winston Benjamin, there was nothing wrong with England's bowling that about six more fielders could not have coped with. Lewis and Caddick had one or two moments of ill luck, but by and large could not hit the same spot twice in a row, and Lewis did not so much bowl the occasional slower ball, as the occasional non-slower one.

The only bowler to look remotely threatening was Alan Igglesden, who deserved to win an lbw decision when his third ball after lunch cut back into the right-handed Murray to give him his first Test wicket since his only previous appearance, in 1989. As England have been trying, but failing, to get him on to the field for the past five years, this is an unsurprising statistic, and it was typical of an unlucky cricketer that Igglesden was not bowling when the West Indian tail evaporated.

Lewis and Caddick were the beneficiaries, beginning with Winston Benjamin chopping on to his stumps aiming something extravagant at Caddick. However, the credit for Benjamin's reckless mood mostly belonged to Lewis. When Benjamin played on to Caddick, and when Curtly Ambrose and Kenneth Benjamin missed straight deliveries, Adams's hopes of a maiden century in his fifth Test had all but evaporated in a spell of 3 for 0 in seven balls.

Adams, shielding the last man, Courtney Walsh, from the strike when he could, was on 81 when the ninth wicket fell, and managed to make it to 95 before Walsh was out leg before to Lewis on the stroke of tea, giving Lewis two more wickets than he deserved.

SABINA PARK SCOREBOARD

(Third day: England won toss)

ENGLAND - First Innings 234 (A J Stewart 70, M A Atherton 55; K C G Benjamin 6-66).

WEST INDIES - First Innings

(Overnight: 238 for 4)

K L T Arthurton c Lewis b Malcolm. . . . . . . . . . 126 (323 min, 232 balls, 11 fours, 2 sixes) J C Adams not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .95 (342 min, 226 balls, 10 fours) J R Murray lbw b Igglesden. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 (73 min, 47 balls, 5 fours) W K M Benjamin b Caddick. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 (71 min, 58 balls, 6 fours) C E L Ambrose b Caddick. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 (4 min, 4 balls) K C G Benjamin b Lewis. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0 (2 min, 1 ball) C A Walsh lbw b Lewis. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 (23 min, 8 balls) Extras (lb10 w1 nb3). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Total (550 min, 123 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . .407

Fall (cont): 5-256 (Arthurton), 6-319 (Murray), 7-389 (W Benjamin), 8-389 (Ambrose), 9-390 (K Benjamin), 10-407 (Walsh).

Bowling: Malcolm 23-3-113-3 (6-1-31-2, 6-0-40-0, 6-2-21-1, 5-0-21-0); Caddick 29-5-94-3 (nb4) (7-2-10-1, 6-0-25-0, 4-0-18-0, 5-2-6-0, 3-0-20-0, 4-1-15-2); Lewis 26-4-82-2 (nb1 w1) (6-1-31-0, 7-2-17-0, 4-0-6-0, 5-1-13-0, 4-0-15-2); Igglesden 24-5-53-1 (8-2-20-0, 8-3-8-0, 2-0-6-0, 6-0-19-1); Hick 21-4-55-1 (3-0-12-1, 6-1-18-0, 3-2-1-0, 9-1-24-0).

Progress (cont): New ball: 75 overs, 241-4. 250: 358 min, 82 overs. 300: 425 min, 94.5 overs. Lunch: 315-5 (Adams 50, Murray 34), 98 overs. 350: 478 min, 108.5 overs. 400: 543 min, 121.2 overs.

Adams' 50: 228 min, 149 balls, 4 fours.

ENGLAND - Second Innings

* M A Atherton c Adams b Walsh. . . . . . . . . . . 28 (112 min, 78 balls, 4 fours) A J Stewart run out (K Benjamin). . . . . . . . . . 19 (41 min, 27 balls, 2 four) R A Smith c Adams b Walsh. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 (18 min, 12 balls) G A Hick not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 (87 min, 51 balls, 2 fours) M P Maynard c Murray b W Benjamin. . . . . . . . . . 0 (4 min, 3 balls) R C Russell not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 (33 min, 21 balls) Extras (lb1). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 Total (for 4, 151 min, 32 overs). . . . . . . . . . 80

Fall: 1-34 (Stewart), 2-39 (Smith), 3-58 (Atherton), 4-63 (Maynard).

Bowling (to date): Ambrose 8-2-18-0 (6-1-14-0, 2-1-4-0); Walsh 14-3-35-2; W Benjamin 8-2-21-1; K Benjamin 2-0-5-0 (one spell each).

Progress: 50: 99 min, 21 overs.

To bat: G P Thorpe, C C Lewis, A P Igglesden, A R Caddick, D E Malcolm.

Umpires: S A Bucknor and I D Robinson.

Match referee: S M Gavaskar.

Tony Cozier, Photograph, page 35

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