England inspired by their local heroes

Click to follow
The Independent Online

West Indies 172 England 105-5

West Indies 172 England 105-5

Ten weeks ago Craig White found himself face down in a gutter, having fallen unconscious in a Scarborough street. Yesterday at Headingley, the England and Yorkshire all-rounder turned black-out into all out, taking a career best 5 for 57 as England skittled the West Indies for 172 by tea on the opening day of the fourth Test. Yet, by the close, England had lost five wickets of their own for 105 runs, enough to ensure that any ground gained is just as quickly lost at this fickle venue.

With 15 wickets falling in the day, and with Curtly Ambrose joining the élite 400-wicket club, White's was not the only performance of note on a day when batting successes, such as those enjoyed by Graham Thorpe and Ramnaresh Sarwan, were kept to a strict minimum.

Nasser Hussain, undergoing a trial every bit as harrowing as anything written by Kafka, showed great character in battling his way through bruised digits only to fall lbw to Courtney Walsh. Hussain has now gone 10 completed innings without scoring fifty, though only the unkindest of judges would have seen yesterday's 22 as a failure.

Arriving at the crease in the third over of England's innings, Hussain was in early enough to see Ambrose join the chosen few by having Michael Atherton caught by Brian Lara at first slip. It was the 17th time Ambrose has dismissed the Lancastrian at Test level.

Yet, where Ambrose goes, Walsh is never far behind and, after removing Hussain in his second spell, he got rid of Thorpe with a ball that cut back so sharply into the left-hander's pads as to make hitting it virtually impossible. In his next over he had Alec Stewart taken by Sherwin Campbell at second slip to leave the match, with four days to play, on a knife edge.

There is a saying in these parts that when Yorkshire are strong England are strong and the 10,000 strong local crowd revelled in the performance of White and Darren Gough, who shared eight of the 10 wickets between them after Jimmy Adams won the toss and batted.

Headingley is the kind of pitch, especially when it starts dry, where wickets tend to come in spurts. With bounce variable and occasional seam movement to keep batsmen honest, the pitch was not perfect by any means. Yet error and misjudgement played a far greater part than they should have done on a surface that demanded vigilance and a straight bat.

Campbell, a superb cover driven four to his name in Gough's second over, was the first guilty party when he tried to repeat the shot next ball. But instead of timing the stroke, as he had done moments earlier, he tried to hit it too hard, the bat twisting as he sliced a catch to Marcus Trescothick at gully.

The early breakthrough, so vital to he fielding side, was followed by a period of consolidation by the West Indies that saw Hussain replace both his opening bowlers in the 13th and 14th overs. As both had beaten the bat, especially Caddick, it was a bold tactic, though one that ultimately proved inspirational once White decided to go around the wicket.

Too early in the game for reverse-swing, White instead bent his back and turned up the mph. Wavell Hinds, who had played some pleasing drives, suddenly found he had to hurry. Trying to cover the angle, he was caught with bat away from body and the ball found the inside edge on its way to Stewart.

If that got the match back on to a level footing at 50 for 2, the next wicket gave England's momentum a major boost. After his century at Old Trafford, Lara had looked in ominous form and his first ball here, a short-arm pull for four, spoke of a man in confident mood ready to take the bowling apart.

But whereas the old White might have wanted to hide, the new improved one probed away at off stump. Deny Lara the oxygen of runs and his mind occasionally begins to play tricks. Having carefully left anything outside off stump well alone, he tried to do the same to one that was angled in. With no stroke offered, the umpire George Sharpe had no option but to uphold the appeal for lbw.

Adrian Griffith, edging a wild slash off Gough, and Adams, dragging on from White, followed soon after to leave the tourists on 60 for 5. At this point it was all Yorkshire, with White having taken 3 for 6 from 17 balls.

Then came the first hints that this was not the rogue pitch some were predicting. At 20, Sarwan has all the confidence of youth with none of the impetuosity. A few edgy strokes at the start of his innings could not detract from the overall harmony of a highly polished and unbeaten half-century. Indeed, the two boundaries he struck once he had reached the milestone, a cover drive and a hook, both off White, only rivalled each other for the shots of the day. With the robust and occasionally agricultural Ridley Jacobs, Sarwan helped add 68 runs for the sixth wicket. They offered contrasting styles, the silkiness of Sarwan's timing a neat counterpoint to Jacobs' hoiks and swishes.

Until one of those landed gently in Caddick's hands at mid-off, a shot so stupid that the wrath of Adams should have burned Jacobs' ears, the West Indies were taking command, a position they again approached later in the day, through the more familiar figures of Walsh and Ambrose.

Comments