Cricket / Fourth Teat: Stewart gives England cause for optimism: Atherton sets tone for England's loss of quick wickets to unimpressive strokes as their apparent advantage dissipates

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England . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .355 and 171-3

West Indies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .304

THE latest confrontation between the past masters in retrieving lost causes and the specialists in high class cock-ups had the third-day spectators at the fourth Test riveted to their seats here yesterday. However, hard though England tried over the weekend to perform their usual trick of conjuring disaster from the jaws of success, they will have to try even harder with an overall lead of 222 and seven second-innings wickets in hand going into today's rest day.

Having all but thrown away what should have been a three-figure first- innings advantage, England then slipped to 79 for 3 before the first-innings centurion, Alec Stewart, baled them out again. Stewart is 62 not out, and on course to become England's first century-maker in both innings since Graham Gooch - against decidedly gentler bowling from the east Indies - at Lord's in 1990.

Even for a side as well versed as England in the art of turning silk purses into sow's ears, it seemed barely conceivable that they could do it again from yesterday morning's position (167 runs ahead with only three first-innings wickets to wrap up) but in England's case, this tour has been a sad case of young dogs being unable to learn new tricks.

From the moment they strung a metaphorical hammock between two palm trees midway through the last session on the opening day, a falling coconut on the head was never far away. From 223 for 1 they evaporated to 355 all out, and then, when they had all but squeezed the pips out of the West Indian first innings, they allowed the home team to rally from a gruesome 137 for 7 to 304 all out.

With a lead of only 51, their nerve ends were at least partially exposed when they slipped to 79 for 3, all three wickets the result of batsmen apparently playing with their eyes closed. Michael Atherton turned his back on a short one from Courtney Walsh to proffer a looping catch off the splice to first slip, Mark Ramprakash then appeared to be curiously unaware that there was a fielder at short square leg, clipping Walsh straight to him, and there was another failure from Robin Smith.

Smith had made 13 (six of them in one blow off Winston Benjamin) when he was dropped in the gully by Shivnarine Chanderpaul off the other Benjamin, Kenneth, and inexplicably padded up to the next delivery, which pitched on the stumps, and would have plucked out middle.

However, England then had a stroke of rare good luck when Stewart drove the first ball of Ambrose's second spell to mid-off, and only survived through the umpire's call of no-ball. This was a rare misjudgement from Stewart, and with Graeme Hick also recovering from a nervous start to contribute 52 not out, in an unbroken stand of 92, England are in a strong position this morning.

The West Indies' record of 12 straight victories at the Kensington Oval, and an unbeaten one stretching back to 1935, had apparently been undermined by Angus Fraser's 6 for 47 on Saturday, but although Fraser finished with career best figures of 8 for 75, the fact that he was virtually taking on the West Indian batsmen by himself had a crucial bearing on the home team's recovery.

At 137 for 7, the West Indies were still 19 runs short of the follow-on, but from the moment Atherton dropped Chanderpaul on Saturday evening at what would then have been 157 for 8, England's ability to offer a prostrate enemy a helping hand up, rather than deliver a sharp boot to the ribs, shone through.

Chanderpaul marshalled a recovery that allowed the West Indies' last three to yield a further 116 runs (170 from the fall of the seventh wicket) and produced record partnerships on this ground against England for the eighth, ninth and 10th wickets.

Chanderpaul, dropped on 27, went on to make 77 before he was ninth out, and in four Test innings against England he has now occupied the crease for 12 and a half hours. It was both a comment on a 19-year-old's outstanding maturity, and some outstanding immaturity from Chris Lewis and Andrew Caddick. Lewis bowled as though drained of energy, while Caddick bowled like a drain.

Ambrose had been batting for 99 minutes when he and Chanderpaul resumed their eighth-wicket partnership, and they stretched this from 54 to 71 before Ambrose edged Fraser to second slip. However, if Ambrose's resistance was startling, Kenneth Benjamin then walked out - having offered little previous evidence that he is able to distinguish one end of a bat from the other - and made 43.

He and Chanderpaul put on 58 and while Chanderpaul eventually got a leading edge to mid-off attempting to clip away a legside ball from Tufnell, Benjamin and Walsh then put on 41 for the last wicket.

This was 27 runs more than it ought to have been, as the legside slog from Walsh that yielded another four went straight through Mark Ramprakash's hands and into the boundary wall. Fraser eventually wrapped up the innings when Walsh had one slog too many, and his 8 for 75 was only the third time an England bowler had taken eight wickets in an innings against the West Indies, after Tony Greig at Port of Spain in 1974 (8 for 86) and Ian Botham at Lord's in 1984 (8 for 103).

KENSINGTON OVAL SCOREBOARD

(Second and third days: West Indies won toss)

ENGLAND - First Innings

(Overnight Friday: 299 for 5)

G A Hick c Murray b Ambrose. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

(91 min, 58 balls, 7 fours)

R C Russell c Chanderpaul b Ambrose. . . . . . . . . . . 38

(88 min, 56 balls, 5 fours)

C C Lewis c Murray b Ambrose. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0

(1 min, 2 balls)

A R Caddick b Ambrose. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

(34 min, 24 balls, 1 four)

A R C Fraser c Chanderpaul b Walsh. . . . . . . . . . . . 3

(26 min, 15 balls)

P C R Tufnell not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

(2 min, 1 ball)

Extras (lb8 nb24). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32

Total (477 min, 100.2 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . 355

Fall (cont): 6-307 (Hick), 7-307 (Lewis), 8-327 (Caddick), 9-351 (Fraser), 10-355 (Russell).

Bowling: Ambrose 24.2-5-86-4 (nb10) (5-2-16-0, 7-1- 20-0, 5-0-26-0, 7.2-2-24-4); Walsh 24-3-88-1 (nb17) (5-0-21-0, 5-2-14-0, 5-0-26-0, 7-1-24-0 2-0-3-1); W K M Benjamin 22-4-76-3 (nb1) (2-1-1-0, 5-1-23-0, 2-0-8-0, 8-2-16-3, 5-0-28-0); K C G Benjamin 20-5-74-2 (nb4) (7-2-29-0, 2-1-6-0, 8-2-27-1, 3-0-12-1); Chanderpaul 10-4-23-0 (1-1-0-0, 9-3-23-0).

Progress (second day): 300: 401 min, 86.1 overs. 350: 467 min, 99.1 overs. Innings closed. 11.18.

WEST INDIES - First Innings

D L Haynes c Atherton b Fraser . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35

(61 min, 51 balls, 6 fours)

* R B Richardson c Atherton b Fraser . . . . . . . . . . .20

(67 min, 31 balls, 3 fours)

B C Lara c sub (N Hussain) b Lewis . . . . . . . . . . . .26

(60 min, 45 balls, 5 fours)

K L T Arthurton c Russell b Fraser . . . . . . . . . . . . 0

(2 min, 3 balls)

J C Adams c Thorpe b Fraser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

(112 min, 68 balls, 3 fours)

S Chanderpaul c Ramprakash b Tufnell . . . . . . . . . . .77

(301 min, 231 balls, 10 fours)

J R Murray c Thorpe b Fraser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0

(2 min, 2 balls)

W K M Benjamin c Hick b Fraser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

(15 min, 13 balls, 1 four)

C E L Ambrose c Hick b Fraser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

(115 min, 74 balls, 5 fours)

K C G Benjamin not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43

(119 min, 87 balls, 4 fours, 1 six)

C A Walsh c Tufnell b Fraser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13

(28 min, 18 balls, 2 fours)

Extras (lb1, nb11) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

Total (451 min, 101.5 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .304

Fall: 1-55 (Richardson), 2-55 (Arthurton), 3-95 (Lara), 4-126 (Adams), 5-126 (Haynes), 6-126 (Murray), 7-134 (W K M Benjamin), 8-205 (Ambrose), 9-263 (Chanderpaul).

Bowling: Fraser 28.5-7-75-8 (11-3-34-2, 10-3-13-4, 7- 1-24-1, 0.5-0-4-1;, Caddick 24-2-92-0 (nb2) (5-0-23-0, 3-0-18-0, 6-0-18-0, 5-2-12-0, 5-0-21-0); Lewis 17-2-60-1 (nb7) (10-2-35-1, 5-0-19-0, 2-0-6-0); Tufnell 32-12-76-1 (nb2) (23-9-45-0, 7-3-15-1).

Progress (second day): Lunch: 29-0 (Haynes 18, Richardson 11) 7 overs. 50: 46 min, 12.1 overs. 100: 129 min, 25.3 overs. Tea: 111-3 (Adams 20, Chanderpaul 6) 31 overs. 150: 247 min, 53.3 overs. Close: 188-7 (Chanderpaul 31, Ambrose 35) 69 overs. (Third day): 200: 323 min, 71.5 overs. New ball: 77.1 overs, 214-8. 250: 401 min, 90.1 overs. Lunch: 270-9 (K C G Benjamin 22, Walsh 2) 97 overs. Innings closed: 1.05.

Chanderpaul's 50: 240 min, 186 balls, 7 fours.

ENGLAND - Second Innings

* M A Atherton c Lara b Walsh. . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

(56 min, 43 balls, 2 fours)

A J Stewart not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .62 . .62

(249 min, 164 balls, 7 fours)

M R Ramprakash c Chanderpaul b Walsh. . . . . . . . . . .3

(20 min, 12 balls)

R A Smith lbw b K C G Benjamin. . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

(46 min, 41 balls, 1 four, 1 six)

G A Hick not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52

(121 mins, 82 balls, 7 fours)

Extras (nb26) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

Total (for 3, 249 min, 52 overs). . . . . . . . . . . .171

Fall: 1-33 (Atherton), 2-43 (Ramprakash), 3-79 (Smith).

Bowling: Ambrose 9-1-25-0 (nb9) (5-1-12-0, 1-0-5-0, 3-0-8-0), Walsh 12-1-55-2 (nb9) (8-1-27-2, 4-0-28-0), W K M Benjamin 12-1-34-0 (nb1) (one spell), K C G Benjamin 11-1-40-1 (nb11) (7-1-25-1, 4-0-15-0), Chanderpaul 5-2-11-0 (4-2-3-0, 1-0-8-0), Adams 3-0- 6-0 (one spell).

Progress: 50: 87 min, 16.5 overs. Tea: 50-2 (Stewart 21, Smith 4) 17 overs. 100: 164 min, 32.3 overs. 150 in 217 min, 44.3 overs. Stewart 50: 192 min, 119 balls, 6 fours. Hick 50: 113 min, 78 balls, 7 fours.

Umpires: L H Barker and D B Hair.

Match Referee: J R Reid.

(Photograph omitted)

Tony Cozier, page 33

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