Cricket / Second Test: Lara sizing England up for the kill: West Indies halve the deficit for the loss of Richardson after Ambrose's firepower knocks a hole in the tourists' ambition

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England 322; West Indies 45-0

AFTER the first-day cavalry charge from Mike Atherton and Robin Smith, England reverted to more familiar territory yesterday - behind the sandbags and back in the trenches. From 173 for 2 on the opening day, England were finally bowled out for 322, and having first clawed their way back, the West Indies are now scenting blood at 152 for 1.

England's solitary success so far has been the wicket of Richie Richardson (and that to a breathtaking catch from a wide half-volley) and England's attack against the West Indian batsmen is the rough equivalent of attempting to fight a tank battle with bows and arrows. Desmond Haynes (53 not out) looks immoveable, and Brian Lara (57 not out) irresistible.

The first of two uncomfortable thoughts for England to ponder this morning are that in the last Test on this ground in 1991, Australia also topped 300 in the first innings, then conceded 569, and finally lost by 10 wickets. The second is that Curtly Ambrose, who had not previously done much to dispel rumours that he is getting pretty tired of life on the commuter circuit of West Indian cricket, is once again beginning to run in as though he doesn't so much want to blow away a few cobwebs as blow away the bloke with a bat 22 yards away.

After Richardson's peculiar decision to field first, it was Ambrose who partially rescued his captain with the wickets of Graeme Hick and Graham Thorpe late on the opening day, and Ambrose again who broke through to the England tail yesterday before the last three wickets evaporated in 15 balls without a run being scored.

On a pitch of minimal pace and movement, it is the progressively more uneven bounce that causes the batsmen problems, and as this can only get more pronounced as the match wears on, Richardson must have felt even more kindly disposed towards Ambrose yesterday than he usually does. This is one of the more volatile Caribbean venues, and they have been known to hang effigies of home captains from the rafters of the stand and set fire to them.

England, resuming on 258 for 5, really needed another session and a half of Atherton to give them a good, rather than barely adequate, total to bowl at, but the captain was first to go yesterday after only 18 runs had been eked out against the customary, give-nothing-away bowling. Having added 13 to his overnight 131, Atherton got a ball from Ambrose that just did enough to find a thin edge through to the wicketkeeper.

As Atherton walked off, the signwriter was already at work inside the old colonial pavilion inscribing his 144 (alongside the other Test centurions here) on a very large board overhanging the players' dining area. The board listing bowlers who have taken five wickets in an innings is substantially smaller, and hangs next to the gents' toilet, an uncomfortable reminder to Atherton that this is traditional dip-your-bread territory for batsmen, and that anything under 350 was liable to turn England's task into three and a half days of fighting to avoid defeat.

Ian Salisbury was leg before to Winston Benjamin, and Chris Lewis survived what must have been a hairline decision for lbw first ball. However, he and Jack Russell then provided England's final resistance with an eighth-wicket partnership that was more productive in terms of time eaten up than runs scored.

Russell's 13 runs took him two minutes short of two hours, and Lewis's 17, despite including an emphatic hook for six off Courtney Walsh, occupied an hour and 39 minutes. Even an attack that, by recent West Indian standards, only rarely threatens life and limb, is able to work on the principle that if you can't blast them out, you can certainly wear them out.

Russell's scuttling, crouching style would make a sand crab look like a poetic mover, and while it often makes him a hard man to bowl at, it can also get him into bother. The ball from Ambrose that got him certainly got up a little bit from a goodish length, but it was Russell's jab from the crouched position that was largely responsible for the thick edge to second slip.

Lewis had no need to play at a ball from Kenneth Benjamin that was at least a foot wide of off stump, but perhaps he felt that a few runs were required given the limited batting talent at the other end. Alan Igglesden promptly reinforced this theory by having his middle stump uprooted second ball.

Lewis's new incarnation as a frightening fast bowler could perhaps have been better timed, and there was nothing in his opening spell of five overs for 14 runs to suggest that, on this pitch, he was pursuing anything other than an exercise in producing blood from a stone.

However, for all Lewis's shortcomings on this tour, his fielding has rarely dipped below the brilliant, and it was a remarkable diving catch at backward point that broke an opening stand of 63. Richardson, who already has three big Test centuries on this ground, thrashed a wide one from Angus Fraser low to Lewis's right, and was more astounded than anyone when Lewis plucked it out of the air.

Ian Salisbury bowled pretty well without much luck, and Haynes was 15 when he edged him underneath Russell's gloves. It was a hard chance, but the sort that he will have to take if England are not to go down their traditional route of ditching him for Alec Stewart.

SCOREBOARD FROM GEORGETOWN

(Second day: West Indies won toss)

ENGLAND - First Innings

(Overnight: 258 for 5)

* M A Atherton c Murray b Ambrose. . . . . . . . . . .144

(412 min, 296 balls, 17 fours)

I D K Salisbury lbw b W Benjamin. . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

(86 min, 60 balls, 1 four)

R C Russell c Richardson b Ambrose. . . . . . . . . .13

(118 min, 72 balls, 1 four)

C C Lewis c Richardson b K Benjamin. . . . . . . . . .17

(98 min, 63 balls, 1 six)

A R C Fraser not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

(9 min, 4 balls)

A P Igglesden b K Benjamin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

(1 min, 2 balls)

Extras (lb14 nb7). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21

Total (541 min, 124.5 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .322

Fall (cont): 6-276 (Atherton), 7-281 (Salisbury), 8-322 (Russell), 9-322 (Lewis), 10-322 (Igglesden).

Bowling: Ambrose 30-8-58-4 (5-1-15-0, 5-0-15-0, 15-3-27-3, 5-4-1-1); Walsh 26-7-69-2 (nb2) (6-2-7-2, 8-1-30-0, 8-4-14-0, 4-0-18-0); K Benjamin 23.5-5-60-3 (4nb) (6-1-23-0, 10-0-33-1, 7.5-4-4-2); W Benjamin 26-9-62-1 (2-1-1-0, 4-1-8-0, 6-0-22-0, 5-1-22-0, 9-6-9-1); Adams 3-1-10-0 (2nb) (one spell); Chanderpaul 16-2-49-0 (3-1-5-0, 13-1-44-0).

Progress (second day): 300: 476 min, 110.5 overs. Lunch: 313-7 (Russell 12, Lewis 16) 115 overs. Innings closed: 1.32pm.

WEST INDIES - First Innings

D L Haynes not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .53

(192 min, 116 balls, 5 fours)

* R B Richardson c Lewis b Fraser. . . . . . . . . . . .35

(100 min, 86 balls, 4 fours)

B C Lara not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .57

(90 min, 73 balls, 9 fours)

Extras (b1 lb2 nb4). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7

Total (for 1, 192 min, 45 overs). . . . . . . . . . . .152

To bat: K L T Arthurton, J C Adams, S Chanderpaul, J R Murray, W K M Benjamin, C E L Ambrose, K C G Benjamin, C A Walsh.

Bowling: Lewis 9-0-33-0 (nb2) (5-0-14-0; 4-0-19-0); Igglesden 10-3-29-0 (5-0-16-0; 5-3-13-0); Fraser 9-2-22-1 (one spell); Salisbury 13-2-53-0 (11-2-36-0; 2-0-17-0); Hick 4-0-12-0 (one spell).

Progress (second day): Tea: 45-0 (Haynes 22, Richardson 21) 14 overs. 50 in 65 mins, 14.5 overs. 100 in 140 min, 32.2 overs. 150 in 187 min, 43.4 overs. Haynes 50: 162 min, 95 balls, 5 fours. Lara 50: 76 min, 67 balls, 8 fours.

Umpires: C R Duncan and S Venkataraghavan.

Match referee: J R Reid.

Australia fight back, page 55

(Photograph omitted)

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