Cricket: West Indies view - Fast bowlers' bold endeavours are compromis ed at the crease

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After two closely fought, nerve-jangling Tests, the series is even in every sense.

The psychological advantage the West Indies gained with their unlikely victory in the second Test has now been cancelled by England's similar triumph in the third. The facial expressions at the presentation afterwards were completely opposite to what they were eight days ago.

Now England's reflected joy and relief. Brian Lara and his colleagues were fully aware they had failed to secure what would have been a virtually unassailable lead and that they will have to deal with rejuvenated opponents from here on.

This was a critical result for England. Had they not managed it, it would have been not only an almost certain end to their hopes but a crushing blow to morale. Len Hutton's powerful side of 1954 recovered from defeat in the first two Tests to share the spoils in the end but not many others have achieved such a feat in the long history of the game.

The West Indies were beaten, once more, because of the failure of their batting and in spite of the heroic efforts of their two great, if ageing, fast bowlers, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh.

Over their last 14 Test innings - against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and now England - their average all-out total is a meagre 224. Six times they have fallen for under 200, four times for under 250. Only twice have they totalled more than 300 and only Brian Lara, against Sri Lanka in St Vincent last June and Carl Hooper against Pakistan in Karachi in December have put together individual hundreds.

Those depressing statistics are compounded by the inescapable knowledge that there are no replacements to make a significant difference. Rolland Holder, a well-organised right hander from Barbados, compiled a flawless 183 against England's attack for the West Indies A team prior to the first Test. He is now 29 and the selectors have never been convinced of his credentials as a Test batsman, picking him for only seven Tests over a career that has now been going more than 10 years.

The openers continued to fail as they have done since the durable and reliable combination of Gordan Greenidge and Desmond Haynes pairing ended six years ago. Stuart Williams has looked the most accomplished of the batsmen in both Tests here, stroking the ball with sweet timing and confidence. But he continues to choose the wrong shot for the wrong ball and to waste his talent.

Sherwin Campbell, his little partner, is clearly out of form. He hops around uncertainly from his crease and his feet are leaden. An edged stroke or an lbw verdict have never seemed far away. He was the only one in Pakistan last year to bat with purpose, averaging 40 in the Tests. The selectors will be loathe to discard him especially since the main alternative is Clayton Lambert of Guyana, an left-hander who is 35 years old.