Lara's attack finally worthy of the West Indies

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The Independent Online

Brian Lara's extraordinary feat of endurance, invincibility and class over the first three days here ensured the further humiliation of an English series sweep would be avoided by the West Indies.

Brian Lara's extraordinary feat of endurance, invincibility and class over the first three days here ensured the further humiliation of an English series sweep would be avoided by the West Indies.

Lara's fast bowlers have given his team a real chance to convert his record into victory. If they can achieve it, it would be of even more long-term significance to West Indian cricket than the captain's unbeaten 400.

Since Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh retired, the West Indies have searched in vain for replacements. Rose, King, Cuffy, McLean, Stuart, Dillon, Black and Drakes have tried but were pale imitations of Ambrose and Walsh. Big opposition totals became increasingly prevalent.

Suddenly, in the last year, a group of young bowlers with pace and potential have been discovered. Fidel Edwards and Tino Best, two 22-year-old Barbadians, are the duo who have led the attack this series. Their improvement, and the way they have worked in partnership with their fellow Barbadians, the less lively but more experienced Pedro Collins and Corey Collymore, have made England's batsmen work hard for modest scores.

Last season and in Zimbabwe and South Africa subsequently, the West Indies attack was so impotent that they yielded four totals over 600 and four over 500 in 10 Tests, in which they bowled the opposition out only twice.

Best, raw and wild, went without a wicket in his only Test in that time. Edwards, plucked from the nets by Lara after a solitary first-class match, was learning on the job. Collins was omitted from the South Africa tour before rediscovering his in-swinger in the domestic season.

They have been fortunate to find friendly pitches in the first three Tests. Their batsmen were not and it was their repeated failures that let them down. This placid pitch presented them with their sternest test and, after Lara had set them up, they bowled beautifully. The West Indies have not bowled better as a unit since the heyday of Ambrose and Walsh than they did in England's first innings. Now they must seal the deal.

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