England's winning ambitions fall flat

West Indies' delayed declaration and rain interruptions leave Hussain's men to settle for disappointing draw
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The Independent Online

A final day of glowering Manchester skies, in which 38 overs were lost to rain, ensured this absorbing Test was drawn. On the balance of the power shifts within the game, nobody could quibble at the result. Yet both sides - England on Saturday morning and the West Indies on Sunday after Brian Lara was out - were perhaps guilty of not wanting to win it.

A final day of glowering Manchester skies, in which 38 overs were lost to rain, ensured this absorbing Test was drawn. On the balance of the power shifts within the game, nobody could quibble at the result. Yet both sides - England on Saturday morning and the West Indies on Sunday after Brian Lara was out - were perhaps guilty of not wanting to win it.

The tactics of Jimmy Adams, who delayed his declaration until long after England's chances of winning the game had receded, were perhaps understandable. After making the game safe for his own side, Adams would then have to make it unsafe for England, something he later claimed he only felt able to do from a position of strength.

With two veteran bowlers as his main strike force, he will have reasoned that the shorter the day the more he could get from them. In any case, if advance intelligence about the pitches at Headingley this season are accurate (uneven bounce), he probably fancies his side's chances there.

For the home team, who were 80 for 1 when the captains shook hands and called it a day, this was the third time in a row that they have left Old Trafford thankful for a draw. But if relief was the overwhelming emotion for England here against both South Africa and New Zealand, disappointment must surely have been uppermost after seeing their commanding first-innings lead overhauled so easily by Lara and co.

"You are always disappointed when you don't win the game," Nasser Hussain, the captain, said. "But this was a proper Test match played over five days on a good pitch. The West Indies showed a lot of fight, especially through Brian Lara and Jimmy Adams. To win, we really needed to prise them out sooner than we did."

Asked if he felt if the spinner Robert Croft had been disappointing, Hussain diplomatically claimed that the pitch itself, rather than the bowlers' footholds, had only spun slightly. The captain is entitled to his view but Croft has taken just 16 wickets in his last 10 Tests, a poor return in any language.

With the West Indies leaving England needing 293 to win from at least 71 overs, the draw was always the favourite outcome. Even so, it was England's batsmen who looked the more grateful every time a shower of rain held up play. None more so than Hussain, whose form, despite an unbeaten six yesterday, is still in the doldrums. Having made 10 in the first innings, he had made just one when dropped by the wicketkeeper, Ridley Jacobs, off Courtney Walsh. As captain, you never want to be out of form, especially against bowlers like Walsh and Curtly Ambrose.

Their skill, height and pace, means it is rare for a batsman to find his way back into clover when they are running in with a ball in their hand. Instead, Hussain plans to play against Worcestershire for Essex at Kidderminster in an attempt to find some form.

"I was feeling all right on Friday, but I got a decent delivery that hit the shoulder of the bat," he said. "Yesterday, in poor light, the conditions were difficult. I'll be honest, I don't feel in the best of my form and I'm going to play for Essex to spend time at the crease to try and find whatever is missing, technically or mentally."

Hussain is a fine captain who has made England a more steely outfit and no one should suggest that he drop himself, but his figures since his hundred in the Durban Test just over seven months ago do not make pretty reading. In nine completed Test innings he has made 126 runs with a highest score of 25. Indeed, with just 134 runs from 12 first-class innings this season, it appears the trough has not bottomed out, despite what he says about his one-day form.

One player whose stock has risen - along with his Test average - is that of the debutant, Marcus Trescothick. Before being thrust into the breach many were questioning the sanity of blooding an opener in such an important Test against arguably the most potent new-ball attack in world cricket.

As he did in the one-day series, however, Trescothick answered the doubters with runs and calm authority that belied his inexperience at Test level. He enjoyed a slice of luck in the first innings, when Wavell Hinds dropped him on three, but his temperament and bearing at the crease spoke of a character unflustered by either the big time or the big bowlers with the big reputations homing in on him.

Walsh, in particular, must have been impressed. Against Michael Atherton, who he eventually removed, and Hussain, who he should have claimed had the wicketkeeper not been butter-fingered, the bowler scowled and postured as he worked them over. Against Trescothick, he merely returned to his mark, clearly keen not to waste energy on matters he knew would not upset the young man's concentration. When fast bowlers get that serious, you know you must be doing something right.


Final day; West Indies won toss

WEST INDIES - First Innings 157 (D G Cork 4-45).

ENGLAND - First Innings 303 (A J Stewart 105, M E Tescothick 66; C A Walsh 4-50, C E L Ambrose 4-70).

WEST INDIES - Second innings (Overnight: 381 for 6)

ÿR D Jacobs not out 42 146 min, 111 balls, 4 fours F A Rose lbw b White 10 23 min, 21 balls, 1 four C E L Ambrose not out 36 55 min, 45 balls, 1 four, 1 six Extras (b14, lb4, w2, nb12) 32 Total (for 7 dec, 155 overs) 438

Fall (cont): 7-384 (Rose).

Did not bat: R D King, C A Walsh.

Bowling: Gough 27-5-96-1 (nb11) (5-1-15-0, 4-0-20-0, 2-1-10-0, 5-1-20-1, 5-0-22-0, 4-2-5-0, 2-0-4-0); Caddick 23-4-64-1 (nb1) (2-0-7-0, 5-3-9-0, 4-1-9-0, 3-0-19-0, 2-0-5-0, 7-0-15-1); Cork 28-9-64-1 (7-4-10-0, 3-1-6-0, 3-1-5-0, 5-2-7-0, 1-0-1-0, 8-1-26-1, 1-0-9-0); Croft 47-8-124-1 (2-0-2-0, 8-2-22-0, 4-2-8-0, 10-0-28-1, 8-2-23-0 10-2-21-0, 1-0-8-0, 2-0-8-0, 2-0-4-0); White 27-5-67-2 (5-2-13-1, 3-1-3-0, 5-0-18-0, 5-1-11-0, 9-1-22-1); Trescothick 1-0-2-0 (w2); Vaughan 2-1-3-0 (1-0-3-0 1-1-0-0).

Progress: Fifth day: 400: 596 min, 145.1 overs. Declaration: 12.06pm.

ENGLAND - Second innings

M A Atherton c Jacobs b Walsh 28 88 min, 63 balls, 3 fours M E Trescothick not out 38 135 min, 101 balls, 6 fours *N Hussain not out 6 46 min, 41 balls Extras (b4, lb1, nb3) 8 Total (for 1, 33.4 overs) 80

Fall: 1-61 (Atherton).

Did not bat: G P Thorpe, ÿA J Stewart, M P Vaughan, R D B Croft, C White, D G Cork, A R Caddick, D Gough.

Bowling: Ambrose 12-2-31-0 (nb2) (5-0-13-0, 7-2-18-0); Walsh 14-6-19-1 (4-1-10-0, 10-5-9-1); King 2.4-0-15-0 (2-0-15-0, 0.4-0-0-0); Adams 5-1-10-0 (nb1) (1-0-3-0, 4-1-7-0).

Progress: Lunch: 42-0 (Atherton 15, Trescothick 26) 12 overs. Rain delayed restart until 1.44pm. Rain stopped play: 2.04-2.56pm 44-0 (Atherton 16, Trescothick 26) 16.5 overs. 50: 75 min, 18.1 overs. RSP: 3.30-4.48pm 63-1 (Atherton 31, Hussain 1) 24.1 overs. Bad light stopped play: 5.20pm.

Umpires: D B Cowie and P Willey.

Man of the match: A J Stewart.


(Five Test series tied 1-1)