Cricket: Smith arms England for counter-attack: Fortune favours bowlers and leaves West Indies to face their first test of the series when play resumes today

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ENGLAND have spent too long impersonating King Canute for a confident prediction that the tide is turning, but their luck certainly is. Not only has an outrageous fluke made them odds-on to get back into this Test series, but the fact that Robin Smith spent yesterday munching happily on a club sandwich by the hotel poolside, rather than being fed by intravenous drip in the Queen's Park Infirmary, is little short of a miracle.

The looping leg-side full toss sent down by Ian Salisbury to Jimmy Adams in the final over of the day was destined for a journey half-way to Tobago had Smith not been directly in its flight path two yards away at short leg, and while Jack Russell was still sprinting to collect the rebound, most of the other players were frantically waving to the pavilion for a stretcher.

However, while Smith has the sort of forearms that would make even Ian Botham reluctant to take him on in an arm wrestling contest, it was remarkable that the one he instinctively threw up to protect the more life-threatening area between his ears is still in one piece. Hospital X-rays revealed no fracture, but if the West Indians are not quite broken by the incident either, it is now odds on England winning this Test sometime today.

Adams is a redoubtable opponent, and when he came in to bat in similar circumstances on his debut against South Africa two years ago (three second-innings wickets down and the arrears still not knocked off) his 79 not out opened the door just wide enough for his fast bowlers to complete the job. As a result of his dismissal, the West Indies are effectively 67 for 5 instead of 67 for 4, and on a pitch becoming more uneven by the session, England will not want to be chasing any more than 150.

Brian Close spent an entire career bellowing from short leg for his fielders to collect the rebound as cricket balls ricocheted off his forehead, but the last time England received this kind of bonus in a Test was in the the 1985 Ashes series at Edgbaston. It also involved another left-hander, Wayne Phillips, who smashed a ball from Phil Edmonds into Allan Lamb's heel at silly point, and David Gower collected the rebound that effectively ended Australia's resistance.

Where Adams could be said to have been doubly unlucky was that Russell actually completed the job. This has not been a good series for Russell, who has missed three stumpings and a catch in the last two Tests, and he spent so much time on Sunday sprawled in the dirt attempting to retrieve balls that had spilled out of the gloves, that his laundry bill would have made a large hole in his daily allowance.

Ironically enough, having spent so long being bounced in and out of the team to accommodate an extra batsman, it is now Russell's wicketkeeping that leaves him vulnerable to another 'we'll ring you' message from the selectors. However, Alec Stewart is currently so firmly entrenched as Mike Atherton's opening partner, that Russell will doubtless survive for Barbados and Antigua.

Besides which, Atherton's policy of sticking by players he believes can play, rather than reacting to temporary blips in form, has already been vindicated by Graham Thorpe, and, at crucial times in the West Indies second innings, by Andrew Caddick and Chris Lewis.

Caddick has not looked so animated since he bulldozed his way into the Georgetown press box with steam coming out of his ears, searching for the journalist who had described those ears (unkindly rather than inaccurately) as not significantly less pronounced than Dumbo's. He bowled with a great deal of heart as well as accuracy, and the mis-hooked catch to mid-on that removed Keith Arthurton after an ominous partnership of 80 was just as important as Adams's wicket.

Lewis had earlier got rid of Desmond Haynes, the batsman most qualified - in terms of application and experience - to retrieve the situation for his team, and while the large contingent of English supporters duly came out with their tedious, football-style observation that there is only one Chris Lewis, there are in fact two of them.

Literally.

There is the Lewis who yo-yos between class all-rounder and total passenger, and two Lewises who were both christened Clairmont Christopher in Georgetown in the 1960's. A couple of weeks ago this led a journalist to deduce that Lewis was 28 rather than 26, but after further investigation, this curious coincidence came to light. England are still waiting for the real Chris Lewis to stand up, but in this match his commitment has been irreproachable, as has that of a team which looked mentally broken after Guyana.

As a result, only a prolonged burst of the bad weather which effectively robbed them at this venue in 1990 looks capable of depriving England, and the inhabitants of Port of Spain do not so much tune in to the local equivalent of Michael Fish to find out when rain is on the way, as stare at the trees. When the yellow flowers of the poui tree are in full bloom, so they say, it is time to swap the parasol for an umbrella, and yesterday - rather ominously - the surrounding hills resembled a sea of custard.

THIRD TEST (West Indies won toss) West Indies 252 and 143 for 5; England 328 (G P Thorpe 86; C E L Ambrose 5-60).

(Photograph omitted)

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