Cricket: Headley follows Fraser's lead to contain W Indies

West Indies 159 & 200-9 England 145
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The Independent Online
IN A Test match that refuses to yield its secrets easily, it was the turn of the quiet and unassuming to have their say. The stage may have been set for Brian Lara, but it was the efforts of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jimmy Adams and Dean Headley that have so far kept this match on a knife- edge, albeit one now beginning to tilt the West Indies' way.

In circumstances that did not encourage traditional West Indian strokeplay, Chanderpaul and Adams helped to frustrate England's impressive fightback, which, led by Angus Fraser in the morning, was given fresh impetus by Headley when he took 3 for1 in seven balls in the afternoon.

It is rare thing to find a Test where almost every session has threatened to be the decisive one, and if anything this one has been even more draining for the players than its predecessor, despite the slightly less humid weather.

When play began, the West Indies' game plan was to try and take the game away from England by lunch. To do that Brian Lara needed to treble his overnight score of 30. On the other hand, an early dismissal would give England the important early impetus necessary to bowl the home side out for another low score.

Beginning shakily against his nemesis Angus Fraser, Lara looked a shadow of the batsman he was four years ago, when he plundered what is virtually the same attack to all parts of the Caribbean. But if Fraser worried him with his niggling line, he still managed to cut loose against Dean Headley and he peppered the off-side boundary boards with a series of savage cuts.

When 11 runs had been added to the overnight score, Fraser struck, a well-directed bouncer taking the nightwatchman Kenny Benjamin by surprise as he top-edged the ball to a circling Jack Russell.

With Lara still at the crease, and looking more fluent by the over, England's joy at the early breakthrough was tempered until Fraser nipped one back at the left-hander to trap him lbw for 47. It was the fourth time in as many innings that the Middlesex seamer had snared the West Indies captain, an accolade that has earned him praise locally. There is now a saying in these parts that Angus Fraser is as consistent as Angostura.

The dismissal brought opposite reactions, and, although it was greeted by a whoop of joy from the England players, the silence from the Dos Santos and Carib Beer stands betrayed the fact that it was not the home town decision the local supporters had perhaps expected. There is little doubt that over the years Lara will have been given the benefit of the doubt on plumber lbw's than this one, which looked if anything a little high, the ball hitting him well above the roll on his back pad. However, Darryll Hair, the neutral umpire here, is the tallest on the circuit, and from his perspective the ball must have looked like it would have hit the top of the stumps.

For Lara, this ground is proving a tough nut to crack as far as big scores go. Although it is home and he has the mansion on the hill, as well as a main street (Brian Lara Promenade) named after him, he still has not got the century he and his acolytes crave.

Significantly, Lara's demise was the only time the Barmy Army managed to outsing the Trini Possee, a bacchanalian gathering of musicians, revellers and stunning local women, whose presence is amplified by a thunderous sound system playing all the latest Soca tunes. Briefly silenced again, when Headley, who bowled far better yesterday, skidded one into Carl Hooper's pads to have the West Indies vice-captain lbw, the Possee were ominously upbeat as Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Jimmy Adams began putting together what may yet prove to be the decisive stand of the match.

Benefitting from the absence of Fraser, who had little left to give even when he did return after lunch, the pair added 56 runs in 24 overs before Chanderpaul wafted at Headley, returning from the Northern End after his marathon two-hour spell in the morning. It was a timely innings by Chanderpaul, who mixed sturdy defence with some blistering shots, mainly through the off-side. Only the young Guyanese batsman's downfall will have disappointed him, although it did take a superb one-handed catch by Russell, diving to his left, to snaffle the edge.

In hot breezy conditions, Headley's stamina was stupendous and he fully deserved the wickets that followed. Getting the ball to reverse swing, the Kent paceman found himself on a hat-trick after David Williams was lbw for a inauspicious pair and Ambrose was bowled by a beauty first ball.

By this time Atherton, having overbowled Fraser and Headley, was rotating his bowlers more frequently than Chelsea do their strikers. With Caddick blowing hot and cold and runs as precious as Headley's diamond ear stud, it was not an ideal tactic, and one Adams and Nixon McLean took advantage of.

In a curiously low scoring game, culprits stand out like the ears of a certain fast bowler. By tea, only two boundaries had been scored off Angus Fraser, a tally in sharp contrast to Caddick's. He gave that many away in his first over after lunch. However, with Fraser completely spent, and the West Indies lead creeping above 200, Caddick returned after tea to remove McLean, well caught by Alec Stewart at second slip.