This may yet turn out to be nothing more than an inconsequential bite out of the postman's trousers, in that the West Indian attack has yet to be unleashed on a difficult, uneven pitch, and England will have to bat better than they have so far threatened in this series to make much above 200 themselves.
However, it was none the less heartening to see Ian Salisbury and Chris Lewis salvage England's faint hopes of recovering from 2-0 down with three to play at a time when it would not have been greatly surprising to see heads starting to drop.
Salisbury split an opening partnership of 66 by bowling Desmond Haynes, who had been badly dropped by Mike Atherton at mid- off off Angus Fraser, and after a second-wicket partnership of 92 between Richie Richardson and Brian Lara, Salisbury and Lewis turned what was threatening to be another gloom-laden day into something more respectable.
Between them they took four wickets in five overs to leave the West Indies at 164 for 5, and Lewis's personal contribution was three wickets for two runs in 17 deliveries.
However, they did have some assistance from a couple of dodgy umpiring decisions, and the bowler-friendly nature of the pitch was illustrated by the normally fluent Richardson struggling for four hours to reach his half-century.
Richardson, having got away with making a mess of the toss in Guyana, this time had his entire complement of fast bowlers peering and prodding at the pitch half and hour before spinning up. The result, much to England's surprise, was his decision to bat when Atherton (perhaps to his own relief, in that England did not really have a clue what to do) called wrongly.
This was not the lush greentop on which England took the first five West Indian wickets for 29 in the 1990 Test, nor as big a rogue as last year's against Pakistan when the West Indies were bowled out for 127. However, it was dry and uneven enough to suggest irregular bounce (which is how it turned out) and Richardson was almost certainly right to be wary of having to bat last.
The morning session produced only 58 runs, four boundaries, and no wickets, and while the Trinidadian public had clearly decided against a boycott in protest at the absence of Phil Simmons from an unchanged team, a good few of them must have spent the two hours before lunch wishing they had.
Richardson moved from 11 to 15 with his first boundary 10 minutes before lunch, and England for once did not manage to bowl as though they would all have failed a breathalyser. Their mastery of the half-volley has been such that when Fraser produced the first of the day after no fewer than seven overs, Haynes was so excited that he mishit it in the air to mid-off. However, Atherton was perhaps even more excited than Haynes by this apparent gift and dropped it.
Caddick took the new ball with Fraser, which meant that England's experiment with Lewis as their new lightning-fast strike bowler had lasted precisely one match. As Lewis himself never believed in this strategy, it was rather a silly decision in the first place.
It is not easy to pinpoint why a bowler will suddenly find an extra yard of pace, as Courtney Walsh did in Jamaica, and when an inoffensive bloke like Vic Marks wondered why Malcolm Marshall always tried to tear his helmet off in county games, he was startled to discover that Marshall did not care for the way he walked. Thereafter, whenever Somerset played Hampshire, Marks would not so much take a net, as practice new walks in front of a mirror. It never worked, apparently.
The walk that Atherton was relieved to see after his drop, was Haynes on his way back to the pavilion. Haynes had slowly increased in confidence to the point of hooking Lewis for six shortly before lunch, but it was over-excitability that got him out in the second over of the afternoon. Salisbury, who had paid four and a half runs an over for his wickets in Guyana, dropped one a touch short, and when Haynes stepped back to hoik it over the on side, the ball scuttled between his pads and knocked out the leg stump.
However, when Richardson and Lara dug in to take it from 66 to 112, Fraser was reduced to near apoplexy (and with good reason) when Richardson nicked him straight into Thorpe's hands at first slip and out again. It was a routine catch by village green standards, never mind by as accomplished a specialist as Thorpe in a Test match.
Richardson was eventually lbw attempting to slog a Salisbury full toss, and the neutral umpire, Srini Venkat, bravely risked a lynching by giving Lara out leg before to a ball from Lewis that hit him on the top of the thigh and was clearly too high.
In Lewis' next over, Robin Smith took a sharp low catch at silly mid- off to get rid of Jimmy Adams, and Lewis struck again with another eyebrow-raising leg before from Venkat, this time against Keith Arthurton.
There was not much argument, though, when Fraser took the sixth wicket in his third over with the second new ball, spearing a full length delivery through Shivnarine Chanderpaul and flattening the middle stump. or when he followed up by bowling Winston Benjamin.
PORT OF SPAIN SCOREBOARD
(First day; West Indies won toss)
WEST INDIES - First Innings
D L Haynes b Salisbury 38
(127 mins, 98 balls, 4 fours, 1 six)
*R B Richardson lbw b Salisbury 64
(267 mins, 172 balls, 8 fours, 1 six)
B C Lara lbw b Lewis 43
(141 mins, 104 balls, 5 fours)
K L T Arthurton lbw b Lewis 1
(21 mins, 17 balls)
J C Adams c Smith b Lewi 2
(10 mins, 9 balls)
S Chanderpaul b Fraser 19
(65 mins, 52 balls, 3 fours)
J R Murray not out 22
(103 mins, 65 balls, 3 fours)
W K M Benjamin b Fraser 10
(17 mins, 15 balls, 1 four)
C E L Ambrose not out 5
(25 mins, 20 balls, 1 four)
Extras (b1 lb11 1w nb11) 24
Total (for 7, 395 mins, 90 overs) 227
To bat: K C G Benjamin, C A Walsh.
Fall: 1-66 (Haynes), 2-158 (Richardson),
3-158 (Lara), 4-163 (Adams), 5-164 (Arthurton), 6-201 (Chanderpaul), 7-212 (W Benjamin).
Bowling: Fraser 21-9-37-2 (nb3) (8-3-13- 0, 7-4-9-0, 6-2-15-2); Caddick 19-5-43-0 (nb2 w1) (5-1-6-0, 3-1-6-0, 6-1-19-0, 5-2-12- 0); Lewis 23-3-50-3 (nb4) (5-0-11-0, 2-0- 9-0, 6-1-14-0, 7-1-14-3, 3-1-2-0); 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 (one spell each).
Progress: 50: 108 min, 24 overs. Lunch: 58-0 (Haynes 31, Richardson 20) 27 overs. 100: 202 min, 44.4 overs. Tea: 133-1 (Richardson 55, Lara 27) 54 overs. 150: 259 min, 59 overs. New ball taken after 75.1 overs at 194-5. 200: in 347 mins, 80 overs.
Richardson 50: 235 min, 148 balls, 5 fours, 1 six.
ENGLAND: *M A Atherton, A J Stewart, M R Ramprakash, R A Smith, G A Hick, G P Thorpe, R C Russell, C C Lewis, I D K Salisbury, A R Caddick, A R C Fraser.
Umpires: S A Bucknor and S Venkataraghavan.
Match Referee: J R Reid.
Australian fight-back, page 47Reuse content