Adams tougher over soft spots

Tony Cozier says West Indies skipper is trying to banish bad habits
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Since taking over in March as captain and manager respectively of the West Indies team, Jimmy Adams and Roger Harper have stressed one attribute above all others. With good reason, that attribute is consistency.

Since taking over in March as captain and manager respectively of the West Indies team, Jimmy Adams and Roger Harper have stressed one attribute above all others. With good reason, that attribute is consistency.

International cricketers should not have to be told that Tests are designed to last 15 sessions over five days, and that a couple of hours of slack cricket can cost a match. But nothing has characterised West Indies cricket in recent years more clearly, or annoyingly, than the repetition of such periods.

Adams and Harper are still battling to get their point across. Having been in charge for a few months, they are finding that bad habits are hard to break.

These have been even more starkly evident in this series, and have led to the plight in which West Indies now find themselves; the series is still far from safe.

Yet West Indies could hardly have played more efficient cricket than they did in the First Test at Edgbaston. They batted solidly, bowled with purpose and fielded alertly. It was like the 1980s all over again as England were swept aside in three days by an innings.

They again had England at their mercy in the Second Test at Lord's before the dramatic transformation after tea on the second day, when they were routed for 54. A first-innings lead of 133 was converted into defeat by two wickets, and they haven't been the same since, except in their fickleness.

Harper blamed complac-ency, the most dangerous trait of all in sport, for the turnaround. Whatever the reason, the same problems have driven the management team to distraction over the three days here as well.

With the encouraging exception of Ramnaresh Sarwan, the 20-year-old Guyanese appearing in his first overseas Test, their batsmen lacked application on the opening day, and that put them in immediate trouble. It was as if as if they were taken aback by Adams' decision to bat on winning the toss, and did not expect the England bowlers to get much reward for their efforts under the leaden skies.

For seven unforgettable overs on Friday, Courtney Walsh, as lion-hearted and skilful as ever, brought them back into contention by dismissing Mike Atherton, Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe without conceding a run. With England 17 for 3, it was the cue to tighten the screws. Instead, complacency seemed to set in and West Indies went limp again, a weakness exploited by Alec Stewart, with crucial support from Marcus Trescothick.

The support bowlers, Franklyn Rose and Reon King, could find not a modicrum of control, Adams was obliged to bring himself on for 11 overs, a couple of catches were missed and the fielding went to pieces.

Already behind by 39 when play began yesterday and still with seven wickets to take, West Indies were in desperate straits. They could not afford another bad session, far less another bad day.

Adams and Harper are not hard, demonstrative types, and might not have read the riot act overnight. But they would have been very clear about what was required. And they got the response they were seeking. Walsh and Curtly Ambrose, as always, set the example. Rose and King, for a change, followed their lead. Line and length were controlled, the attitude keen, the fielding better.

The upshot was that England's lead was limited to 146, still sizeable but not as unmanageable as it could easily could have been. Then Sherwin Campbell and Adrian Griffith played with the concentration and purpose so often missing from the batting.

West Indies have had more bad periods than good at Old Trafford, but at least they are not out of contention. But only consistent cricket will avoid the defeat that could be decisive to the outcome of the series.

Comments