Walsh's cunning is sorely unsupported

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The Independent Online

In his 120 Tests and 16 years of international cricket, Courtney Walsh has had few spells to compare with his remarkable opening here yesterday.

In his 120 Tests and 16 years of international cricket, Courtney Walsh has had few spells to compare with his remarkable opening here yesterday.

As Michael Atherton, Robin Smith and a host of England batsmen, past and present, can attest, several have been appreciably faster and more hostile. In his youth, he had genuine pace and tested batsmen's courage as well as technique.

As he has slowed with age, he has honed his more basic skills. He has developed a serious leg-cutter to complement his stock ball, the one delivered from wide of the crease that jags back off the pitch.

He has also, in his cricketing old age, worked on the change of pace that has become an essential part of the armoury of most fast bowlers in these days of unlimited limited-overs cricket. It is something that has seemed beyond the capacity of most other West Indians.

Walsh has always instinctively known how to quickly assess a batsman's weakness and to put the ball where he intends.

Every attribute was on display as England set out in pursuit of the inadequate West Indies' total of 157.

Atherton had no answer to a perfectly pitched ball whose angle drew him into defence only to hold its line, flick the outside edge and find the safe hands of Sherwin Campbell at second slip.

Nasser Hussain got two wicked balls in quick succession. The first, wide of off-stump, scuttled along the ground through to the keeper. The second, pounded in on off-stump, climbed steeply to take the shoulder of a bat hastily raised in self-preservation. The deflection lobbed to gully.

As the left-handed Graham Thorpe took guard and settled for his first ball, Walsh hatched a plot that he executed with perfection. With no perceptible change in action, he released the ball from loose fingers and directed it unerringly at the base of the middle-stump.

Walsh did not bother to wait for umpire Peter Willey's mandatory confirmation of the lbw decision. Besides himself with the sheer cunning of the delivery, he ran helter skelter around the field, pursued by jubilant team-mates. And, in eight overs, he still had not conceded a single run.

It was a spontaneous demonstration that revealed another, vital reason why Walsh has managed to keep going as long as he has. He still gets a buzz from the game that has been his life since he was a boy, sending down leg-breaks at Melbourne Club in Kingston.

The West Indies will not know what to do when he finally goes. Walsh will not know what to do without the West Indies either. It was a travesty that, again, he lacked support from those who will have to eventually replace him.

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