Spinner has skill to turn the tide

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The Independent Online

There was a sense of inevitability once Jimmy Adams won the toss yesterday morning and chose to bowl.

There was a sense of inevitability once Jimmy Adams won the toss yesterday morning and chose to bowl.

It was a decision prompted primarily by concern over the batting that has betrayed the West Indies time and again in the series, most recently in the two-day defeat in the Headingley Test and again in the humbling by Somerset at Taunton.

Had he been more confident that they could make the most of a pitch with the unmistakable look of runs, and in the sunshine that forecasters say will not last into weekend, Adams would surely have told his top-order batsmen to pad up and prepare themselves for a productive day.

For the first time 10 Tests, the West Indies included a specialist spinner, Mahendra Nagamootoo, for his debut in preference to the traditional complement of four fast bowlers. The ideal scenario would have been to have him ready to exploit the expected wear and tear in the closing stages, not operating before lunch on the first day.

It was obvious that once Mike Atherton and Marcus Trescothick, with their contrasting and effective methods, got through the customary early threat of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, they would take some shifting.

As they built their imposing partnership of 159, rarely troubled after a couple of expected alarms against the two champion veterans, the West Indies might have fallen to pieces.

They have been overwhelmed by injuries, indifferent cricket and rasping criticism from home. Their coach, Roger Harper, said before the game that most of his players were simply looking forward to going home. It was the recipe for disaster.

Instead, they remained focused throughout. There was none of the slack fielding and wayward bowling that preceded their defeat at Headingley.

For once, Ambrose and Walsh did not make their familiar breakthrough and it was left to Nixon McLean and Nagamootoo to carry much of the burden during the course of the long afternoon. They both stuck to the task with concentration and discipline and struck the blows that brought the West Indies back into contention.

Nagamootoo is fast and flat and does not put much on the ball. In style, if not yet substance, he is more Kumble than Warne and he bowled with increasing confidence.

It was an encouraging start. He is only 24 and certainly has a lot to learn - but he carried the look of someone who relishes the challenge.