Cricket: Impoverished England receive another pounding: Lewis and Salisbury stand tall on the burning deck as Kenny Benjamin graduates with honours to put West Indies two up in series

England 322 and 190

West Indies 556

West Indies win by innings and 44 runs

ENGLAND left Guyana last night pretty much as they found it - impoverished and run down - and Guyana also said cheerio to England pretty much as it found them: impoverished and run down. The difference is that the Guyanese manage to remain cheerful when things don't work, although it would be asking a bit much to expect Keith Fletcher to break into a song and dance routine at the moment.

The England team manager has now presided over six overseas Test matches and lost the lot. In his 12 games in charge England have won once, drawn once, and been beaten 10 times, five of them by an innings, three by eight wickets, and one by 179 runs. The other one, in Sri Lanka, was by a nail-biting five wickets, and they are doubtless too ashamed to talk about it in Colombo.

However, there was just a time yesterday when those of us gathered for the funeral were half thinking in terms of praise rather than burial. An eighth-wicket stand between Chris Lewis and Ian Salisbury detained the West Indians for almost two hours, but once they were separated the threatened conjuring trick turned into the proverbial pack of cards.

England's last three wickets finally went clatter in the space of 12 deliveries (three balls fewer than in the first innings) and with England still 44 runs from making the West Indies bat again it was done and dusted half an hour before tea. Not surprisingly, there was a fair old dogfight to grab a souvenir stump, but rather more surprising was the fact that one of those involved was England's No 11, Alan Igglesden. If Igglesden is in the market for collecting mementoes of England defeats, he will probably have plenty of future opportunities if he plays, although in fairness he might have been grabbing a stump in order to show the England bowlers exactly what a stump looked like.

England's aim has not so much been deadly, as given rise to suspicions that they have been practising for this series by bowling at a barn door (without making too many dents in it either) and Mike Atherton correctly identified the bowling as the main reason England lost here. 'They, and Brian Lara in particular, scored their runs so fast that it gave them time to bowl us out twice on a pitch that got more difficult as the game went on,' he said.

'We still should have got more of a first-innings total, though, and too many top-order batsmen got out for single-figure scores. We really couldn't afford to lose here, especially as the next Test in Trinidad (starting on Friday) usually offers more in the way of English bowling conditions, but we have just got to show a bit of character and keep our spirits high.'

His opposite number, however, is not sure England have any spirit left in the optic. 'We are not taking them for granted,' Richie Richardson said, 'but we believe they are getting more and more demoralised. We would like to win 5-0.' 'That's definitely not going to happen,' Atherton said, although inwardly he must now be fearing the worst.

If West Indian cricket was more like its politics, England would have more to be optimistic about, but, with less talent at his disposal, Richardson has got his side pulling together in a way that Viv Richards was never able. Lara and Curtly Ambrose were two gigantic opponents here, but Kenny Benjamin has proved to be a far more redoubtable bowler than England can ever have suspected. As was the case with Paul Reiffel last summer, they are an easy snack for the goldfish never mind the piranhas.

Still 115 behind with six wickets remaining, England probably suspected the game was up from the moment they drew back the bedroom curtains and reached for the sponsored sunglasses. Within 10 overs, both overnight batsmen had gone, one in a way that highlighted the unreliability of the pitch, the other in a way that suggested his time in the side may now be up.

The ball from Kenny Benjamin that did for Alec Stewart landed short of a length but cannoned so low into the stumps that the batsman, not for the first time, was jack- knifed as if struck in the box. Graham Thorpe's bails, on the other hand, were removed when he played routinely forward to a more or less routine delivery from Courtney Walsh and missed it.

Jack Russell then completed a game that will not linger fondly in his memory by snicking a ball from Ambrose angled across the left- hander, and it was at this point that Lewis (assisted by a dropped catch at short square leg) and Salisbury took to the air raid shelter.

Lewis, who is still attempting to find out why the Georgetown registrar of births thinks he is 28 rather than 26, certainly played with the maturity of someone two years older, and it took the second new ball for the West Indies to calm whatever anxiety that might have been starting to creep up on them. Neither was it a classic new- ball dismissal, Jimmy Adams taking a blinding catch at short midwicket as Lewis clipped off his legs.

Angus Fraser was then bowled second ball by a shooter, and when Walsh finally rattled through Salisbury's defence after two hours at the crease, it was all over. If Atherton's boyish smile is now beginning to fade, it is not so much because of losing, as the manner of it. The fact that Richardson could make such a cock-up over the toss, and still canter home by an innings, merely confirms England's current status as the doormats of international cricket.

Devon Malcolm yesterday pledged the rest of his first-class career to Derbyshire by signing a new four-year contract. The 31-year-old agreed the deal before flying back to the West Indies after recovering from knee surgery.

(Photograph omitted)

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