West Indies draw hope from revival

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The Independent Online

A fascinating Test deserved better than the anti-climax of a weather-ruined conclusion but both teams would have been comfortable with the outcome.

A fascinating Test deserved better than the anti-climax of a weather-ruined conclusion but both teams would have been comfortable with the outcome.

By batting on as long as they did in the morning, the West Indies demonstrated that they had no intention of putting their hard-earned fightback at risk.

England, set a target more than 100 runs in excess of any winning total at Old Trafford, would have been relieved not to have had to battle through the last 71 overs. In the end, they were absolutely even on points.

The West Indies had taken a pummelling on the first two days, from the hostile bowling of Darren Gough, Andy Caddick, Dominic Cork and Craig White and the aggressive batting of Alec Stewart.

They were groggy, on the ropes and ready for the taking, but staged such a stirring recovery, through their ageless fast bowlers, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, and their consistent batting, with Brian Lara to the fore, that England suddenly found themselves on the defensive and battling for survival.

It emphasised how evenly the teams were matched on the generally true, even pitch, prepared by Peter Marron and his staff, that Test cricket deserves.

The West Indies can take considerable satisfaction from their comeback. They had endured a difficult month coming into the Test. The effect of the unlikely defeat at Lord's was obvious in their failures in the triangular one-day series that followed.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul, one of their most reliable and experienced batsmen, had been eliminated from the Test - and probably the next as well - by his right forearm injury. Lara was complaining of a tight hamstring muscle. The back-up bowlers to Ambrose and Walsh continued to fall short of expectations, and were told as much by Ambrose, and only Wavell Hinds of the young batsmen was among the runs.

This is a team under a new captain and coach with eight players experiencing first-class cricket in England for the first time and dependent on the contributions and guidance of their seniors, notably Ambrose, Walsh and Lara.

Had they not rallied as they did on the third and fourth days, England would have won comfortably and the morale would have been further undermined.

In the end, everyone could say he contributed in some way to the revival. There are still areas of concern, notably the support for Ambrose and Walsh. But waning confidence has been restored.

Headingley presents a different challenge, one that they should appreciate following their experience of the seamer-friendly pitch in their earlier match against Yorkshire.

They should be ready for it, even if the captain Jimmy Adams and the coach Roger Harper, in their short time in charge, have learnt how dangerous it is to become complacent at times like this.

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