Cricket: West Indies lose their grip: Tourists' third Test game plan puts them in position to take advantage

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The Independent Online
Suddenly and surprisingly, the West Indies have gone flat in the third Test match. The explanation may be somewhat more complex, but the fact is England have played by far their best cricket of the series and the West Indies by far their worst.

Angus Fraser and Chris Lewis quickly found the direct line and marginally short length required for a typical Queen's Park Oval pitch, slow enough to render anything dug into the middle of the pitch a long hop, unreliable enough in bounce to make playing back hazardous. They went around the wicket to cramp the many West Indian left-handers and duly reaped their rewards.

Ian Salisbury bowled his varied leg-spin well enough to merit much better figures in the first innings and could yet be a match-winner.

England, in the jargon of other team sports, had a game plan. In contrast, West Indies appeared to have none. They gave the impression of simply expecting things to happen.

They were initially put under pressure by Richie Richardson's decision to bat on winning the toss, presumably taken on visual, certainly not historical, evidence. The pitch, as always, was going to be more difficult on the opening day than any other.

When they gained their middle-order breakthrough just before tea on Saturday and reduced England to 167 for 5 just afterwards, they uncharacteristically lacked urgency and seemed to take it for granted Graham Thorpe and Jack Russell would not delay them long. The left- handers may have inspired no confidence until now, but they have Test centuries to their name and still needed to be taken care of swiftly.

Instead, the West Indies went soft on them and paid the price. The bowling lacked zip and intelligence and the whole attitude was too leisurely.

Desmond Haynes had to take over, as he has now done several times during the series while the captain has been absent for one reason or another. Other players came and went and there was a general raggedness that quite clearly encouraged Thorpe and Russell.

Once such inertia sets in, it is difficult to shake off. Curtly Ambrose was a different bowler yesterday morning, but after his nine successive overs no one else made an impression and Salisbury batted as if he could have done it all with a broom handle.

(Photograph omitted)

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