Cunning deserts Russell

Fifth Test: West Indies' batting legend pummels the bowlers on a placid pitch as a ploy goes wrong; Stephen Brenkley sees a wicketkeeper stumped by an unusual English plan
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FOR 90 minutes yesterday England's strategy appeared to be flawless. The plan, Baldrick-like in its cunning, must have revolved around keeping Brian Lara from the crease. Short of mugging him on his way to the ground the only certain way of doing this was to avoid taking wickets.

On a Trent Bridge pitch which was so friendly that had it leapt up and patted the batsmen on the back it would have been no surprise, this was less difficult to achieve than usual. Just in case, however, the bowlers forgot some of the rules of line to which they have adhered so strictly for much of the summer. Confirmation of England's intentions seemed to arrive in the 16th over of the day.

Jack Russell missed an elementary stumping off Richard Illingworth with Sherwin Campbell several inches out of the popping crease and showing no inclination to regain his ground. The wicketkeeper, doubtless astonished because until thenCampbell had shown no desire to go anywhere, contrived to drop the turning ball. By the time he recovered it, Campbell was back.

It was the captain, of all people, who departed from the tactics 30 minutes before lunch when the other opener, Stuart Williams, drove Illingworth to mid-off. Presumably Michael Atherton thought there could be no possible justification for dropping the ball.

That catch brought Lara into the match where he proceeded to do what everyone predicted he would - dismember the England attack. Apparently he stands third in the Coopers & Lybrand batting rankings, which must mean that two Test players from the planet Zog exist, because nobody in this galaxy can bat as Lara did yesterday.

Lara was charmingly and disarmingly modest, as usual, afterwards, still insisting that he is not yet fit to join the ranks of the greats. "I feel I'm batting pretty well now. I didn't contribute much in the first three Tests but my concentration seems right now, you've got to be mentally prepared."

If Lara had to come to the crease, Russell would probably have been happier had it been 30 minutes earlier as a result of his stumping. When Russell and England have been talked of in the past two years there was always some argument about his batting. There is nothing at all wrong with his batting now - it may be limited but it is supremely effective. The wicketkeeping is another matter.

The stumping chance was as straightforward as they come. Club keepers would have had their gloves removed from their hands by their team-mates and been beaten around the ears with them until they promised to retire had they missed it.

The poor chap was subjected to countless television replays and none of them can have eased his embarrassment. The merciless judgement of the omnipresent eye suggested that if this is the best wicketkeeper in England then the rest of them in the Championship must be pretty ropy. He took a smart catch towards the end of the day, diving right and moving forward down the leg side. This accounted for the great man himself. Had he missed that, too, the gloves really might have been off.

Scoreboard from Trent Bridge

(England won toss)

ENGLAND -First Innings 440 (G A Hick 118 no, M A Atherton 113, N V Knight 57; K C G Benjamin 5-105).

WEST INDIES - First Innings

(Overnight: 25 for 0)

S C Williams c Atherton b Illingworth 62

(loose drive to mid off; 166 min, 143 balls, 10 fours)

S L Campbell c Crawley b Watkinson 47

(pad-bat catch to silly point; 308 min, 225 balls, 4 fours)

B C Lara c Russell b Cork 152

(flicked at legside ball; 254 min, 182 balls, 28 fours)

*R B Richardson c Hick b Illingworth 40

(guided turning ball to slip; 53 min, 45 balls, 8 fours, 1 six)

K L T Arthurton b Illingworth 13

(left ball that turned sharply; 52 min, 28 balls, 3 fours)

R Dhanraj not out 3

(26 min, 15 balls)

S Chanderpaul not out 8

(21 min, 18 balls, 2 fours)

Extras (b2 lb5 nb2) 9

Total (for 5, 445 min, 109 overs) 334

Fall: 1-77 (Williams), 2-217 (Campbell), 3-273 (Richardson), 4-319 (Arthurton), 5-323 (Lara).

To bat: C O Browne, I R Bishop, K C G Benjamin, C A Walsh.

Bowling: Fraser 12-5-58-0 (nb1) (6-4-9-0, 3-1-21-0, 3-0-28-0); Cork 26- 6-90-1 (nb1) (4-0-13-0, 4-2-3-0, 3-0-13-0, 2-1-9-0, 3-1-15-0, 6-1-24-0, 4-1-13-1); Watkinson 25-8-72-1 (9-6-6-0, 8-2-17-0, 6-0-25-1, 2-0-24-0); Illingworth 37-15-66-3 (27-11-52-1, 2-2-0-0, 8-2-14- 2); Hick 4-1-11-0 (one spell), White 5-0-30-0 (4-0-29-0, 1-0-1-0).

Progress: Second day: Close 25-0 (Williams 16, Campbell 8) 19 overs. Third day: 50 in 113 mins, 29.2 overs. 100 in 185 mins, 49.1 overs. Lunch 111-1 (Campbell 21, Lara 24) 53 overs. 150 in 236 mins, 63.1 overs. 200 in 298 mins, 79 overs. Tea 226-2 (Lara 104, Richardson 9) 84 overs. New ball taken after 85 overs at 227-2. 250 in 346 mins, 89.5 overs. 300 in 397 mins, 97.4 overs.

Williams's 50: 129 mins, 113 balls, 9 fours. Lara's 50: 48 mins, 43 balls, 10 fours. 100: 137 mins, 118 balls, 19 fours. 150: 253 mins, 180 balls, 28 fours.

Umpires: C J Mitchley (SA) and N T Plews. TV Umpire: G Sharp. Match referee: J R Reid.