Cricket: Scene is set for Tufnell

Tony Cozier, in Port of Spain, sees England profit from a patient approach
Click to follow
THE portents are not encouraging for the West Indies. After Angus Fraser had completed his handiwork of the second day by snuffing out the remainder of the West Indies innings within the first 40 minutes of the third day and Alec Stewart and Mike Atherton had solidly built on England's advantage, the body language of those on the field became increasingly dispirited. It was quite clear that the West Indies' players knew they were in for a tough couple of days.

The West Indies' recent record in similar circumstances brings no optimism. Three times in the 1996-97 series in Australia and in all three Tests in Pakistan late last year, they went down as their batsmen could not put together enough runs or occupy enough time in their second innings. Inspite of the presence of four players - Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jimmy Adams and Sherwin Campbell - all with Test averages above 40 and the experienced Carl Hooper in their first six batsmen, they have managed only one total better than 400 in their last 15 Tests. Against that there have been five under 200.

Few of those pitches were as uncertain for batting as that at the Queen's Park Oval for this match. Their manager, Clive Lloyd, repeatedly complained in Pakistan that his batsmen lacked the patience necessary for five-day cricket and it is patience that Lara and the others will need when they bat for a second time over the last day and a half or so. Three vital wickets in the first innings - Stuart Williams, Lara and Chanderpaul - fell to adventurous strokes completely out of place on a surface of such unreliable bounce and pronounced lateral movement.

The pitch, for all its vagaries, has run true to form in that it has become slower and lower with each passing hour and less demanding for batsmen. The occasional ball still leaps vertically from some rogue spot at the northern end, as Stewart so painfully discovered during his second important innings of the match.

Otherwise, there was little of the up-and-down characteristics of the first day and well into the second. There are a host of instances in Tests here of the second innings appreciably surpassing the first and it is likely to be the case again now. All the same, discipline is needed to be able to stay in for any length of time.

Fraser's formula was simple and it worked. He observed the basics and waited for his impetuous quarries to make their mistakes. His controlled accuracy will again be critical to England's quest for victory but the likelier match-winner is Phil Tufnell.

It is the dry season in the southern Caribbean and this has been drier than most. Bush fires break out daily in the surrounding hills and the Queen's Park outfield is parched brown in several areas. Almost all the moisture has gone from the square and the pitch is responding increasingly well to spin.

Tufnell found some encouraging signs during his lengthy bowl on Friday afternoon and there is bound to be more movement when Atherton calls on him again.