White saves his Test best until last

Fifth Test: Three months ago he inexplicably collapsed in the street. Now the tourists collapse before him

Craig White wanted the last West Indies wicket badly. Courtney Walsh was at the crease, and had displayed unexpected powers of resistance, clobbering the ball past White, straight, to the boundary. But the fifth ball of White's 12th over broke through the barriers. Walsh's off stump was uprooted. White had taken 5 for 32, his Test best.

Craig White wanted the last West Indies wicket badly. Courtney Walsh was at the crease, and had displayed unexpected powers of resistance, clobbering the ball past White, straight, to the boundary. But the fifth ball of White's 12th over broke through the barriers. Walsh's off stump was uprooted. White had taken 5 for 32, his Test best.

His leap of pleasure had taken him towards the covers, and before his colleagues engulfed him, he looked over to the Laker Stand at the right of the pavilion and raised his hand, first as a wave and then as a clenched fist. He had already got Brian Lara out first ball, for only his fifth duck in Tests. Here was evidence that his first "five-for" at Headingley was not a flash in the pan. Chalkie White has confirmed his place in the England team. At last.

The crowd in the Peter May Stand had given him an intimation of his admission to this Pantheon - this is one of those rare days when you can call it that - at the end of his penultimate over. Nixon McLean had edged a delivery timed at 85.8mph on to his stumps, and when White jogged back to his fielding position at fine leg, the crowd had cheered him. His wave was exaggerated, a bit like royalty. How he must have felt. After all, a little over three months ago, White was lying unconscious in the gutter outside a pub in Scarborough. It wasn't the drink, but the doctors could not tell him what had caused his collapse. They still can't.

But the experienced change White's life, in the way that recovery from sudden, serious illness sometimes can. Every day becomes a gift, to be lived to the full. Since he returned to the game, White has had some wonderful days.

Ray Illingworth had seen promise in the boy, who was born in Yorkshire in December 1969 before the White family emigrated and Craig was educated in Bendigo, and at the Academy in Adelaide. Illingworth promoted White too soon to the England team. Michael Atherton did not think he was worth his place, and rarely threw him the ball. On the team balcony, he cut a lonely figure. Maybe he should not be there, but you felt sorry for him. That was five years ago.

Back in Yorkshire, White established a reputation as a crisp and efficient one-day player, who bowled fast, but a long delivery stride made him vulnerable to injury. He had impressed David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, when he managed White on a A tour in 1995, and Duncan Fletcher had liked what he had seen when Yorkshire played Glamorgan. But he was not selected for either squad for last winter's tour.

White's initial stroke of fortune in his luckiest year was to be called into the England one-day squad when Andrew Flintoff broke his foot in South Africa. White had been playing for Central Districts in New Zealand, and his coach there told Graveney that he was bowling consistently fast. In the past, he had found it difficult to keep up the pace. He played well enough in the one-day series in South Africa last winter, but when he was named as one of England's contracted cricketers at the beginning of the season the reaction was perplexed. He may have improved, but was he really that good?

At Lord's and Old Trafford, the answer was maybe. White had bowled fast. He had given the England pace attack a depth it has lacked for years, but he was not taking wickets. All that changed at Headingley. What happened at The Oval yesterday was confirmation that England now possess a four-man pace attack capable of winning Test series.

The striking aspect of the West Indies collapse is that it began after Sherwin Campbell and Adrian Griffith had resisted Darren Gough and Andy Caddick for 20 overs. First Dominic Cork broke through when Campbell edged the ball on to his stumps. Then White's 87.2mph delivery clipped Griffith's bat and he was caught at second slip; next ball Lara's leg stump was clipped; Cork had Hinds lbw; White had Sarwan caught in the gully then Cork had Adams at slip. The West Indies were 51 for 6 and England had done what was necessary to win the series. Bravo Corkie; bravo Chalkie.

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