West Indies steal 'impossible' victory

Walsh and Rose's fast bowling onslaught inspires Adams' struggling side as Zimbabwe fail to reach fourth-innings target of just 99
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The Independent Online

The West Indies fast bowlers created another of their cricketing miracles to claim a remarkable win in the inaugural Test against Zimbabwe here yesterday.

Challenged with the seemingly impossible mission of defending a winning target of 99, the durable veterans Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh and their younger accomplices, Franklyn Rose and Reon King, dismissed the limited Zimbabweans a quarter of an hour before tea for 63, the lowest total in their 40 Tests.

The significance of the unlikely triumph, by 35 runs, was unmistakable in the emotional celebrations on the field and among the thousand or so spectators scattered around Queen's Park Oval once Ambrose completed the result by knocking back the off-stump of Zimabwe's last man Mpumelelo Mbangwa.

The West Indies' players joyfully hugged each other and, after assembling in a huddle around their new captain, Jimmy Adams, for a silent prayer, set off on a lap of honour. It was a direct contrast to the atmosphere of a year ago when the West Indies were dismissed for their lowest Test total, 51, and were left distraught by a numbing defeat by Australia.

Now, in the space of four hours, the gloom over West Indian cricket, as one defeat and one controversy has followed another, was lifted by the never-say-die attitude of a revamped team with a new captain, a new coach and a new manager and without its one world-class batsman, Brian Lara.

When Adams returned to the pavilion, Lara, who had resigned as captain three weeks ago and had chosen to take "a break for a short period", was waiting with a knowing embrace. The effect of his absence was obvious in the limp West Indies batting totals of 197 and 147 but not in the renewed spirit.

It was a depressing reversal for Zimbabwe, seeking their second overseas win, and fourth overall, since their elevation to Test status in 1992. They had played disciplined, competitive cricket throughout but could not finally muster the resources to resist high-quality bowling.

Andy Flower, their captain, said: "I thought they bowled really well. They have quality bowlers and I thought they were backed up well by Rose and King. They did not give us much room to score and they applied the pressure and we just were not good enough to cope with it."

Only one team in the history of Tests had won after setting such a low winning target, Australia bowling England out for 77 at The Oval in 1882 when they needed 85. For Ambrose, Walsh and Rose, such escapes have become old hat. Ambrose and Walsh routed South Africa in their inaugural Test in Barbados in 1992 by taking 8 for 26 when only 79 were needed.

This is the ground where the deadly duo dismissed England for 46, their lowest Test total, in 1994. In 1997, in Barbados, Walsh was absent when India were set 120 to win, so Rose took three wickets and Ambrose and Ian Bishop the others to bowl them for 81.

When the West Indies did not add to their overnight total before Heath Streak took his fifth wicket of the innings - and ninth of the match - by removing King, those West Indians for whom humbling losses have become commonplace of late might have given up the ghost. Adams did not.

"This match is not over yet and we are still in it as long as our main bowlers keep a good length and line," he said before play. Ambrose, Walsh, King and Rose confirmed his optimism. They did not bowl a bad ball as the batsmen struggled against pace that consistently probed off-stump on a pitch offering movement and low bounce.

A delighted Adams said: "Rose and King did as much as anyone could have asked of them. I'm really happy for them. They're two for the future. What satisfied me most was that we never gave up, even though we were not happy with every performance. The objective was always to come back the next day and make up for what went wrong the previous day. We have seen it before and we believed that a Test can turn in a session - particularly when you have a bowling quartet like ours."

Zimbabwe managed only one boundary in the 47 overs it took to complete their demise. Their problems started in the fourth over when the left-hander Neil Johnson slapped a catch to cover off Walsh. It was an immediate boost for the West Indies and they never offered any respite after that. Only the other opener, Grant Flower, passed double figures and his 26 lasted nearly three hours and 126 balls before he was undone by an unplayable off-cutter from Walsh that kept low and hit off-stump.

The wicket carried Walsh to within five of surpassing Kapil Dev's Test record of 434 wickets and, while he did not take another, his native Sabina Park, in Jamaica, waits to crown him during the second Test, which starts on Friday.

By then, King and Rose had ripped the heart out of the middle order, King claiming Trevor Gripper lbw and Rose accounting for Murray Goodwin, Andy Flower, Stuart Carlisle and Streak either side of lunch. It left Ambrose to complete the job and he needed only 13 balls to dispatch the last of the specialist batsmen, Alistair Campbell, and the tail-enders, Henry Olonga and Mbangwa.


First Test, final day Zimbabwe won toss WEST INDIES - First innings 187 (H H Streak 4-45) ZIMBABWE - First innings 236 (A Flower 113no; C E L Ambrose 4-42)

WEST INDIES - Second innings(Overnight: 147for 9) R D King c A Flower b Streak 1 C A Walsh not out 0 Extras (b11 lb6 w3 nb8) 28 Total 147

Fall: 1-0 2-0 3-37 4-115 5-115 6-118 7-119 8-142 9-146. Bowling: Streak 17-8-27-5, Olonga 13-3-28-2 (nb4), Mbangwa 15-10-15-0, Murphy 15-3-23-1 (nbl), Johnson 4-0-18-0 (nb3, w3), Gripper 2-0-6-0, G Flower 9-4-13-0.

ZIMBABWE - Second Innings G W Flower b Walsh 26 N C Johnson c Adams b Walsh 3 T R Gripper lbw b King 3 M W Goodwin c Jacobs b Rose 8 *ÿA Flower c Jacobs b Rose 5 A D R Campbell b Ambrose 6 S V Carlisle c Jacobs b Rose 3 H H Streak lbw b Rose 0 B A Murphy not out 0 H K Olonga c Chanderpaul b Ambrose 0 M Mbangwa b Ambrose 0 Extras (lb7 nb2) 9 Total 63

Fall: 1-4 2-20 3-37 4-47 5-51 6-57 7-57 8-62 9-63. Bowling: Ambrose 11-6-8-3, Walsh 14-8-18-2 (2nb), King 9-2-11-1, Rose 13-4-19-4.

Umpires: S Bucknor (WI) and G Sharp (Eng).