Cricket / Third Test: Atherton gives lead to Thorpe: England captain steers resistance movement as a left-hander lends the right support

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HAVING seen the West Indies limp along at less than three runs an over and lose their last eight wickets for only 94 runs, England knew that batting was going to be anything but straightforward on a pitch always likely to produce the unexpected. But, after a shaky start, England ended the day on 236 for five, just 16 short of the West Indies' first innings score as Michael Atherton and then Graham Thorpe brought the beleaguered tourists their best day of the series so far.

England took control of the last session after the West Indies' captain, Richie Richardson, had gone off with a stomach bug: they must now be looking for a lead of more than a hundred. Keith Fletcher, the team manager who has long maintained that Thorpe could be the new John Edrich, must feel relieved that his faith in the Surrey man has been repaid with such a fighting knock. When his 50 came up, Thorpe had doubled the aggregate of his previous four Test innings. With Jack Russell, he added 69 for the sixth wicket and withstood the first blast of the second new ball. On yesterday's evidence, Fletcher could well be right in his assessment of Thorpe, particularly if he is able to convert his gutsy innings into a big hundred today to give England a real chance of getting back into this series.

Starting the England innings with the biggest umbrella of fielders in the series, Richardson clearly had attacking the batsman uppermost in his mind. Indeed, there was nobody occupying a run-saving position in front of the wicket for the whole of Ambrose's first spell and, for England, survival was the immediate target.

Alec Stewart, never at his best in defensive mode, did not survive, however. He was bowled by one that nipped back as Ambrose had cleverly pegged him down on the back foot, the Surrey batsman not having the technique to keep out a ball that ripped through bat and pad.

This breach did not bring about the expected avalanche and Atherton, after a nervous start against Ambrose, showed that his good form had not deserted him. On this tour, Atherton has blossomed from an essentially workmanlike accumulator of runs to someone who can take the attack to the West Indies.

Nevertheless, his lack of machismo clearly baffles the West Indians and even though Winston Benjamin struck him a nasty blow on the shoulder, Atherton remained unruffled and stood firm to hit the other Benjamin straight down the ground. This was an on-drive that oozed the regal authority of a young Greg Chappell. If the England captain was beginning to relax, he had a rude awakening with a ball that reared from short of a length, striking him a nasty blow on his left hand.

A similar delivery had clearly unsettled Mark Ramprakash, who once again found himself shipwrecked in the twenties having miscued a hook off Winston Benjamin back to the bowler. Still shaken from his injury, Atherton, with rare indecision, felt for the ball and was caught behind off the inside edge.

Suddenly the West Indies' bowling seemed to have some purpose about it. Graeme Hick, having shuffled tentatively across the crease first ball, was dropped off his second as he edged Winston Benjamin into the gap between first and second slip. If the two Benjamins had done much to stifle England's progress, Ambrose struck quickly on his return to send Robin Smith back for nine. Smith has struggled on tours before and, once lost, he finds form hard to regain.

After an airy start, Hick began to play fluently, striking one memorable pulled four off Winston Benjamin and driving another off Ambrose, bringing the kind of hands-on-hips response from the bowler that suggested this kind of thing was not in the script. With the help of Graham Thorpe, 52 was added for the fifth wicket before Hick was adjudged lbw to a ball that slanted into his pads.

As the bowlers tired, the absence of Carl Hooper was badly felt by the West Indians. As Thorpe took toll of some weary bowling, Adams came on as a stopgap slow bowler but he only fed the left-hander's cut and pull shots. Thorpe achieved a notable half-century off 97 balls in 146 minutes.

Earlier in the day, the West Indian tail for once failed to wag, as a refreshed Lewis and Fraser took just 5.2 overs to dismiss their last three batsmen. It was obvious in the final session on Friday that these back-to- back Test matches had taken their toll on the England bowlers, but a night's rest had restored their vigour and the West Indies only added 24 to their overnight score.

Apart from providing Chris Lewis with his third lbw decision - the only clear-cut one - the only other incident of the first session came when Angus Fraser and Kenny Benjamin became embroiled in a mid-pitch squabble after the West Indian had majestically struck him for four through extra cover. It was not clear who won the verbals, but it was Fraser who had the last say as Benjamin lost his off stump two balls later.

Close of play scoreboard

(Second day; West Indies won toss)

WEST INDIES - First Innings

(Overnight: 227 for 7)

J R Murray not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27 (131 min, 77 balls, 3 fours) C E L Ambrose c Thorpe b Fraser. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 (edged shortish ball low to first slip; 39 min, 31 balls, 2 fours) K C G Benjamin b Fraser. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9 (played down wrong line; 10 min, 9 balls, 2 fours) C A Walsh lbw b Lewis. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0 (failed to connect with wild swing; 1 min, 1 ball) Extras (b1 lb13 w1 nb12). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27 Total (423 min, 95.2 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .252 Fall (cont): 8-241 (Ambrose) 9-251 (K Benjamin).

Bowling: Fraser 24-9-49-4 (nb4) (8-3-13-0, 7-4-9-0, 6-2-15-2, 23-0-12-2); Caddick 19-5-43-0 (nb2 w1) (5-1-6-0, 3-1-6-0, 6-1-19-0, 5-2-12-0); Lewis 25.2-3-61-4 (nb4) (5-0-11-0, 2-0-9-0, 6-1-14-0, 7-1-14-3, 5.2- 1-13-1); Salisbury 22-4-72-2 (nb4) (3-1-5-0, 4-0-17-1, 14-3-48-1, 1-0-2-0); Ramprakash 2-1-8-0; Hick 3-1-5-0 (both one spell each).

Progress: Second day: 250: 417 min, 94.3 overs.

ENGLAND - First innings

* M A Atherton c Murray b W Benjamin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .48 (ball took inside edge; 137 min, 103 balls, 7 fours) A J Stewart b Ambrose. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 (ball nipped back between bad and pad; 28 min, 13 balls) M R Ramprakash c and b W Benjamin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 (top-edged hook to bowler; 85 min, 55 balls, 3 fours) R A Smith lbw b Ambrose. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 (shuffling across stumps; 59 min, 29 balls, 1 four) G A Hick lbw b Walsh. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40 (ball slanting into pads; 106 min, 70 balls, 4 fours) G P Thorpe not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .64 R C Russell not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Extras (b6 lb9 nb10 w1). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Total (5 wkts, 80 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 236

Fall: 1-16 (Stewart), 2-82 (Ramprakash), 3-87 (Atherton), 4-115 (Smith), 5-167 (Hick).

To bat: C C Lewis, I D K Salisbury, A R Caddick, A R C Fraser.

Bowling: Ambrose 19-5-30-2 (7-1-13-1, 10-3-15-1, 2-1-2-0); Walsh 18-1-59-1 (nb7) (7-0-22-0, 8-0-29-1, 3-1-8-0); K Benjamin 15-4-48-0 (w1) (10-2-39-0, 5-2-9-0); W Benjamin 16-2-48-2 (nb2) (13-2-39-2, 3- 0-9-0); Adams 4-0-18-0 (1-0-4-0, 3-0-9-0); Chanderpaul 5-0-13-0; Arthurton 3-0-5-0 (one spell each).

Progress: Second day: Lunch: 49-1 (Atherton 24, Ramprakash 16) 18 overs. 50: 83 min, 18.1 overs. 100: 152 min, 32.1 overs. Tea: 135-4 (Hick 31, Thorpe 3) 43 overs. 150: 217 min, 45.4 overs. 200: 304 min, 64.5 overs. New ball taken after 75 overs at 226-5.

Umpires: S A Bucknor and S Venkataraghavan.

Match Referee: J R Reid.

(Photograph omitted)

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