Third Test

Strauss stretches his summer of wonder

Yet more heroics from England's discovery of the year after West Indies threaten the unthinkable

The grizzled old warrior and the bright young subaltern ensured yesterday that the summer was not left standing on its head. Graham Thorpe, who has seen it all and done most of it, and Andrew Strauss, who only bats as though he has, extracted England from a tricky position in the Third npower Test which went a considerable distance to restoring the 2004 order.

The grizzled old warrior and the bright young subaltern ensured yesterday that the summer was not left standing on its head. Graham Thorpe, who has seen it all and done most of it, and Andrew Strauss, who only bats as though he has, extracted England from a tricky position in the Third npower Test which went a considerable distance to restoring the 2004 order.

Their partnership for the fourth wicket gradually brought the home side towards parity and what should be a series win, if not a match victory by tomorrow evening. West Indies had enjoyed much the better of the early exchanges on the third day, scoring almost as many as they can have wished, and scything their way through three of England's finest.

But Thorpe, in his 167th Test innings at not long turned 35, and Strauss in his 11th at 27, persuasively and calmly dispelled any notion of England subsidence. Thorpe made his 52nd score above 50 and has averaged almost 60 since he came back into the side, 11 months and 15 matches ago.

Strauss, who can hardly have expected to play back in April, constructed his fifth innings above 50. On 58, Thorpe was badly dropped off the inexperienced but wily left-arm chinaman bowler Dave Mohammed, and Strauss had intermittent difficulty in reading him. There is plenty left in the match but the fear of losing by either side, one because they want to win the series, the other because they are desperate to avoid a whitewash, may well prevail.

There was just the hint early in the day that England expected the final four wickets to be handed over to them without demur, in the taking-sweets-from-babies style that has recently characterised West Indies' late-order batting. The plan, after the late fall of two wickets on the first day and the loss of the second to rain, was to have the tourists back in the pavilion for under 300.

For once, West Indies were not eager to conform to expectation. Much of the refusal and the resistance was supplied by Carlton Baugh, a brave, improvised little performance that displayed plenty of nous. He was perpetually looking to get up the bowlers' pipes by either, say, walking across his stumps and paddling to leg or attempting to lift the short ball over the wicketkeeper and slips.

England did not bowl at their cleverest before lunch. They have had most things their own way this year and tried to bully the opposition into submission with a sequence of short balls. They hit the batsmen on various parts of the anatomy - chest, wrist, finger, chin - but apart from inflicting pain that required breaks for treatment, the positive results were not immediately obvious. Baugh was occasionally hurried, sometimes worried but refused to be buried and took the battle to England. In the early part of the morning he and Mohammed rattled the scoreboard along and when Mohammed was undone at last by a short ball from Andrew Flintoff, Pedro Collins took over.

The new ball yielded a rich harvest and the eighth-wicket partnership was worth 50 after 46 balls. Shots flew through gaps and over fielders. The luck was definitely with West Indies and the universal feeling was that it was not before time.

When Flintoff, now bowling at full tilt again, burst one through Collins' upraised defences and on to his chin (chin music indeed, as the pros call it), the batsman needed to depart for stitches. Another 25 had been added by the time Corey Collymore was bowled by a full-length ball from Matthew Hoggard. On the stroke of lunch, Baugh (pronounced "bore", which is a misnomer) eventually mispulled a top edge to cover.

Baugh is the latest in a recent line of slight Test wicketkeepers who look as though they could seek out an alternative living as boy sopranos. Parthiv Patel and Tatenda Taibu are others. Perhaps they could link up with the older but none the less cherubic Geraint Jones and form a barber shop quartet.

Before England could get to grips, or in the event lose their grip, with pursuing a follow-on target of 196, there was a strange interlude. Immediately after the break they came out to resume fielding in the expectation that Collymore and West Indies would likewise resume batting. As they took their places they were waved into the pavilion by Brian Lara.

Apparently, he had decided to declare, although since Collins was not fit to bat he had no option. And would a team 2-0 down in the series seeking all the runs they could muster really declare? Lara is nothing if not an unconventional captain. He had mused seriously on the possibility of batting to something like 400 and bowling out England for 200 to set up a platform for West Indies victory.

He has accepted West Indies' battering by England in the last two series with good grace and admirable dignity, but probably doubts that this makes his vanquishers quite as good as this has painted them. His assessment of the possible direction of the match had seemed mildly fanciful, a judgement that lasted two balls. Trescothick was unfortunate to receive one so close to him so early. He duly edged it to second slip in a carbon copy of so many previous dismissals. It is said of Trescothick that he will be caught at second slip sometime, whether he has made nought or 200.

This was his hundreth Test innings. He might have joined the 12 men who have scored a century to mark the occasion, including Denis Compton, David Gower, Mark Waugh and Javed Miandad. Instead he became the 11th to have made a duck, adding his name to a list containing Greg Chappell, Sourav Ganguly, Steve Waugh and Doug Walters (who no doubt picked up his fag and poker hand precisely where he had left them in the dressing room and continued as though nothing had happened). Before too long, Robert Key was dismissed by a peach from Collymore, which pitched middle and hit off. It was, however, a rotten apple of a shot, aimed to leg. The way to get out to that ball was playing forward and straight to be caught at slip. Daft as it sounds and handsomely appointed player though he is, Key, a double centurion at Lord's two matches ago, is now playing for his place. The selectors should have seen enough to retain their faith.

Briefly, Michael Vaughan looked magisterial, which is like saying the Queen looks Queenly but he was bowled by Dwayne Bravo off his pads, also aiming to the leg side. At 40 for 3, this was trouble with a small "t", from which Strauss and Thorpe dug them with aplomb, with a capital "A".

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