MCC collapse hands win to unconvincing West Indies

<preform>West Indies 380 &amp; 157 MCC 260 & 248 West Indies won by 29 runs</preform>
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The Independent Online

Brian Lara's blushes were spared as a late-order collapse by the MCC enable the West Indies to secure an unconvincing 29-run win at Arundel.

Brian Lara's blushes were spared as a late-order collapse by the MCC enable the West Indies to secure an unconvincing 29-run win at Arundel.

Lara had expressed disappointment at what he perceived as the under-strength nature of the hosts at the end of the opening day. Those words looked set to come back and haunt him when the MCC reached 213 for 5 with 20 overs still remaining in pursuit of a 278 target.

But the dismissal of John Stephenson - reverse-sweeping spinner Omari Banks and being caught at leg slip by Lara - for a determined 58 marked the beginning of the end for the MCC.

The wicketkeeper, Riki Wessels, was run out for 34 and then Min Patel (4) and Simon Jones (2) perished cheaply to effectively end the contest. Matthew Hoggard (25) slogged a few boundaries before the match was ended when he was bowled by Jermaine Lawson.

Stephenson, the MCC captain and newly-appointed head of cricket, admitted that Lara's comments had spurred on his side. "I was disappointed not to win, to be honest," he said. "We were in a good position to win and collapsed at the end. It was a bit of indiscretion by me in going for a reverse sweep that changed the game. I regret playing that shot. But it was not a bad performance for a sub-standard team!"

He added: "The comment [from Lara] did surprise me. All I said to the lads is that the only way you can respond to that sort of comment is by actions rather than words. I think they responded very well and I think we showed the West Indies that we are a very good team. We set it up for a victory but didn't quite get there."

Indeed, there are plenty of areas in his own side's game that will have given Lara cause for concern ahead of the first Test at Lord's next Thursday. The fielding was below par with four catches spilled in the second innings, while the batting was undistinguished with the exception of Devon Smith, Lara and Chris Gayle.

And the pace attack will have to improve before they tackle Michael Vaughan and Co. Only Pedro Collins can take much satisfaction from his performance although Fidel Edwards did bowl better in the second innings with little luck.

The game had looked set for an early conclusion after Collins made three early breakthroughs for the Windies, showing the accuracy and obtaining the movement lacking in the first innings. Collins struck twice in his fourth over to have Sven Koenig (8) caught behind and trapped his replacement Michael Powell lbw for nought with a ball of full length.

In his next over, Collins claimed the wicket of Graham Thorpe. He had made only four before he was undone by a superb delivery which bounced and left him with Lara clinging on to the catch at first slip.

But Alistair Cook, who led the Under-19s in last winter's World Cup and scored two centuries, impressed for the second time in the game. The Essex player employed the pull shot to good effect on his way to 50 out of 81 from 60 balls with eight boundaries.

Dale Benkenstein (9) gave his wicket away when his mis-timed hook at Jermaine Lawson presented Collins with an easy catch at mid-on.

Cook found a staunch ally in Stephenson during a partnership of 74 in 17 overs. Cook looked set for an excellent 100 when on 89 he played back to a ball from the spinner Omari Banks and was caught behind. His 119-ball innings contained 13 fours to leave the MCC on 151 for 5.

Stephenson and Wessels nudged their side towards the target before the quick-fire end to the game in which Lawson and Banks also ended with three wickets apiece.

The Windies had lost their last five wickets in 9.5 overs after resuming on 115 for 5. It was the South African paceman Charl Willoughby who did most of the damage with three more wickets to give him overall figures of 5 for 48 from 14.5 overs.

But Hoggard and Jones also collected a wicket apiece as they further confirmed their fitness ahead of the first Test.

Hoggard was particularly impressive and finished the innings with 4 for 58 to give him overall figures of 8 for 90 from 29 overs.

Lara (43) fell to a Hoggard delivery which swung sharply and induced an inside edge with Wessels taking a fine catch to his right. Lara's stand with Gayle added 87 in 19 overs but then the innings was rapidly ended with the last four wickets tumbling for just three runs.

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