Cricket: Fraser's perseverance sets stage for thrilling finale

England 214 and 258; West Indies 191 and 181-5
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The Independent Online
Before this series began, Angus Fraser said he intended to play every Test as though it may be his last. Yesterday he got himself an indefinite extension and his first 10-wicket Test match haul into the bargain to sway the game England's way in what promises to be a thrilling finale to this second Test match which ends today. With the home side needing 101 runs to win and England requiring five wickets for the same, it promises to be a thrilling finale.

In a match that has so far seen the bookies yo-yoing by the session, an favourites changing on a daily basis, only one thing has been constant: the persevering Fraser.

Replacing Andy Caddick from the Pavilion End, Fraser - slow to loosen, but quick to find that nagging length - took the crucial wickets of Brian Lara and Stuart Williams, before adding Jimmy Adams later on.

It was the first time the 32-year-old Fraser has passed the 10-wicket mark in a Test match. Normally a tally with which only the very best are associated, Fraser's absence from the "club" is mainly due to fact that he has a habit of giving his all in the first innings, and be a spent force in the second.

However, an absence from Test cricket of two years, has given him a bolder attitude than the Fraser of old, and not content with his career best haul of 8 for 53, in the first innings, Fraser again wreaked havoc within the home side's batting ranks.

After Curtly Ambrose had obliterated the remainder of England's batting, with a spell of 5 for 15 in the morning, it was imperative that the opening bowlers did not squander the new ball.

Perhaps saddled with the pressure of expectation, however, they did, and although Dean Headley accounted for Sherwin Campbell, who edged a drive low to Alec Stewart at second slip, the skiddy Headley was also guilty of feeding Stuart Williams his favourite cut and pull shots.

It allowed Williams to get off to a rapid start, which in turn took the pressure off Lara, who took longer to play himself in. Fortunately, for England, the gambit did not pay off and Lara, dabbing unwisely at a ball too close to him, snicked Fraser to Jack Russell.

Playing at home may be considered an advantage in football, but for local heroes like Lara it comes loaded with the pressure to deliver, and in 10 Test innings at the Queen's Park Oval, he has yet to score a century, passing fifty only twice.

If England expected his dismissal to be a mortal blow to his side, they had not reckoned on Williams who reached his half-century off 70 balls, forty of those runs had come in boundaries.

After tea, Carl Hooper added to the count when he twice stroked Headley to the cover fence and England began to leak runs. With the tension visibly mounting, it was Fraser once more who stemmed the flow, this time with the help of a brilliant diving catch by John Crawley at short leg to remove the powerful Williams for 62.

Although this pitch has become slower, there is still something in it for all types of bowler. Nevertheless, it was disappointing to see Phil Tufnell, who has recently been bowling as well as he has ever done, resorting to bowling over the wicket to right-handers. It is a negative tactic and it allowed both Hooper and the keeper David Williams to bide their time at the crease. The diminutive Williams cut and clipped Atherton's bowlers to distraction, and his quick runs provided vital impetus as the sturdy Hooper retreated into his shell.

When victory is expected rather than hoped for, England have a habit of making things difficult for themselves. Perhaps the bowlers lost confidence once they found the West Indies unwilling to lay down once Lara had gone.

Having run the game for three days, England suddenly looked vulnerable though the culprit was more fatigue than complacency, something that could not have been said when England continued their second innings yesterday morning. But then you take Ambrose for granted at your peril, particularly when sections of the media have written him off as a spent force. In a controlled spell, and keeping the ball well pitched up, the tall Antiguan suddenly began to find the edge. In truth it is that kind of pitch and any periods of calm, though perhaps more frequent than on the first day, were still interspersed with the clatter of wickets.

Luck has also been a factor and by the fourth morning England had used all theirs up. Having looked secure the previous evening, Adam Hollioake promptly edged a lifter to Lara at first slip.

Lara, still wet behind the ears as far as captaincy goes, had a poor day on Saturday, when his bizarre treatment of Courtney Walsh, allowed old grievances to surface. By morning, though, they had disappeared by morning and by setting a bold attacking field, Lara sent a clear message to both his bowlers and the opposition that the match could still be won.

It worked, too, for previous slumbering giants suddenly stirred and batting took on a new menace. When Thorpe went, to a smart catch by Lara at first slip off Walsh, all hope of England batting the home side out of this match disappeared.

It must also be remembered that before their collapse, from 219 for 4 to 258 all out yesterday, England had batted with skill and spirit. Indeed, no less an observer than Bob Willis felt was the best batting performance, in trying circumstances, that he could remember from an England side against the West Indies.

More of the same will be needed before this series is out and for those who think the hurricaine season in the Caribbean is over, there is at least one called Curtly still in the area. And win or lose today, he is still a force to be reckoned with.

PORT OF SPAIN SCOREBOARD

Fourth day; England won toss

ENGLAND - First Innings 214 (N Hussain 61no, A J Stewart 50).

WEST INDIES - First Innings

(Friday: 177 for 7)

C E L Ambrose c and b Fraser 31

(107 min, 83 balls, 2 fours)

K C G Benjamin b Fraser 0

(28 min, 22 balls)

N A M McLean c Caddick b Fraser 2

(19 min, 9 balls)

C A Walsh not out 0

(7 min, 2 balls)

Extras (b12, lb5, nb14) 31

Total (328 min, 73.1 overs) 191

Fall (cont): 8-177 (Benjamin), 9-190 (McLean).

Bowling: Headley 22-6-47-1 (nb10) (8-3-11-1, 5-2-13-0, 6-1-15-0, 3-0- 8-0); Caddick 14-4-41-0 (nb3) (9-3-12-0, 3-0-27-0, 2-1-2-0); Fraser 16.1- 2-53-8 (nb3) (5-0-20-2, 1-1-0-0, 7-0-27-3, 3.1-1-6-3); Tufnell 21-8-33- 1 (nb2) (one spell).

Progress: Third day: Innings closed: 10.36.

Lara 50: 160 min, 92 balls, 6 fours.

ENGLAND - Second Innings

*M A Atherton b Walsh 31

(131 min, 95 balls, 5 fours)

A J Stewart c Hooper b McLean 73

(231 min, 154 balls, 7 fours)

J P Crawley lbw b McLean 22

(87 min, 78 balls)

N Hussain c and b Walsh 23

(88 min, 62 balls, 1 four)

G P Thorpe c Lara b Walsh 39

(155 min, 108 balls, 5 fours)

A J Hollioake c Lara b Ambrose 12

(49 min, 23 balls, 1 four)

R C Russell lbw b Ambrose 8

(19 min, 14 balls)

A R Caddick c D Williams b Ambrose 0

(12 min, 7 balls)

D W Headley not out 8

(37 min, 18 balls, 1 four)

A R C Fraser c Hooper b Ambrose 4

(20 min, 11 balls)

P C R Tufnell c D Williams b Ambrose 6

(12 min, 12 balls)

Extras (b5, lb15, w1, nb11) 32

Total (425 min, 94.5 overs) 258

Fall: 1-91 (Atherton), 2-143 (Crawley), 3-148 (Stewart), 4-202 (Hussain), 5-228 (Hollioake), 6-238 (Russell), 7-239 (Thorpe), 8-239 (Caddick), 9-246 (Fraser).

Bowling: Benjamin 15-3-40-0 (nb1, w1) (3-0-6-0, 4-2-9-0, 8-1-25-0); McLean 12-1-46-2 (nb2) (3-0-15-0, 6-0-24-2, 3-1-7-0); Ambrose 19.5-3-52-5 (nb8) (5-0-20-0, 7-0-16-0, 7.5-3-16-5); Walsh 29-5-67-3 (nb1) (12-3-26-1, 17- 2-41-2); Hooper 19-8-33-0 (9-4-17-0, 3-1-2-0, 7-3-14-0).

Progress: Third day: 50: 58 min, 13 overs. Lunch: 57-0 (Atherton 14, Stewart 36) 17 overs. 100: 154 min, 36 overs. Tea: 128-1 (Stewart 65, Crawley 15) 47 overs. 150: 236 min, 55.3 overs. 200: 305 min, 71.3 overs. Bad light stopped play: 5.36pm. Fourth day: 250: 421 min, 94 overs. Innings closed: 11.25.

Stewart 50: 139 min, 102 balls, 6 fours.

WEST INDIES - Second Innings

S L Campbell c Stewart b Headley 10

(14 min, 12 balls, 2 fours)

S C Williams c Crawley b Fraser 62

(169 min, 120 balls, 11 fours)

*B C Lara c Russell b Fraser 17

(71 min, 52 balls, 3 fours)

C L Hooper not out 40

(210 min, 124 balls, 4 fours)

S Chanderpaul c Thorpe b Tufnell 0

(10 min, 10 balls)

J C Adams c Stewart b Fraser 2

(9 min, 7 balls)

D Williams not out 36

(107 min, 85 balls, 3 fours)

Extras (b1, lb6, nb7) 7

Total (for 5, 298 min, 66.5 overs) 181

Fall: 1-10 (Campbell), 2-68 (Lara); 3-120 (S C Williams); 4-121 (S Chanderpaul); 5-124 (J C Adams).

To bat: C E L Ambrose, N A M McLean, K C G Benjamin, C A Walsh.

Bowling: Headley 12-1-53-1 (5-0-30-1, 3-1-11-0, 4-0-12-0); Caddick 10- 1-40-0 (nb4) (8-1-28-0, 2-0-12-0); Tufnell 26-9-45-1 (nb3) (10-3-24-0, 16-6-21-1); Fraser 17-5-32-3 (nb2) (7-2-19-1, 7-2-7-2, 3-1-6-0); Hollioake 1.5-0-4-0.

Progress: Lunch: 29-1 (S C Williams 13, Lara 5) 6 overs. 50: 58 min, 12 overs. 100: 132 mins, 29.4 overs. Tea: 104-2 (S C Williams 58, Hooper 13) 34 overs. 150: 241 min, 54.2 overs.

S C Williams 50: 112 min, 70 balls, 10 fours.

Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and S Venkataraghavan (Ind).

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