England are blown away

Third Test: Atherton blames the pitch as strike bowlers rock up a storm to lead the West Indies to a crushing victory
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THE jubilation of Lord's must seem like a distant memory for England now. It took the West Indian pace bowlers Courtney Walsh (who took five for 45) and Ian Bishop (four for 29) just less than 80 minutes yesterday to demolish their new-found confidence, and a crushing victory by an innings and 64 runs puts the tourists 2-1 ahead in the series.

It was only the second time since the Second World War that England have lost a home Test match inside three days. The match was won and lost in two days, one hour and 18 minutes, the briefest resistance England have offered since 1938, when beaten by Australia at Headingley.

The omens were not good yesterday. Three batsmen were already back in the pavilion, Alec Stewart was resting his sore finger and, most significantly, the pitch was hard as concrete, grassy in the middle, with the ends shorn bare. The two-tone appearance was, according to the groundsman, Steve Rouse, in accordance with directives from Ray Illingworth.

However, Illingworth insists that all he wanted was "a pitch with even bounce, with less grass at the ends to give the spinners a chance". He got neither, and the West Indies could scarcely contain their glee when Curtly Ambrose's first-ball loosener on Thursday morning bounced over the wicketkeeper's head.

Michael Atherton, who had spent 10 minutes, hands on hips, with Rouse in attendance, glaring at the pitch before the start of yesterday's play, was more forthright at the press conference. "It is the worst Test match pitch I've played on," he said.

He was certainly perplexed as to why the groundsman prepared a surface more at home in Port-of-Spain than Edgbaston. There are unlikely to be recriminations, but unlike the groundsman who prepared that infamous pitch at the WACA, when Ambrose took seven wickets to rout Australia, Rouse was not seeking revenge for getting the sack.

The West Indies' bowlers got far more out of the surface by banging the ball hard into the pitch, though it was a combination of their pace and the vagaries of the pitch that made batting so hazardous, with similarly pitched deliveries flying through at anything between throat and stump high. Bowlers of the class of Walsh and Bishop rarely need this kind of encouragement, and both ran in with the purpose of an assassin.

To salvage a morsel of comfort out of this match, England needed to bat throughout yesterday. In the event, their last six wickets were blown away 40 minutes before lunch.

Robin Smith, as in the first innings, was magnificent in face of such firepower, and his battling 41 was, in the words of his captain, worth at least a hundred in other circumstances. While the West Indies' dressing- room was awash with champagne and Red Stripe, Smith, bruised and battered, would have been soaking in a bathful of Radox trying to work out whether victory little more than a week previously over the same opposition had been an illusion.

Although Ambrose, who bowled so well at Lord's, was absent with a groin injury, it was Bishop, perhaps bowling for the first time at somewhere close to his to his old pace, who gave the West Indies' attack an extra dimension as he roughed up the batsmen with a brutal display of fast bowling.

As is so often the case, Bishop's rewards were fewer than his foil at the other end. Crucially, though, his rapid-fire peppering of England's batsmen allowed Walsh to pick the batsmen off with his greater accuracy and angle of delivery. As the tourists' captain Richie Richardson said afterwards: "There is no other individual like Courtney Walsh. Sometimes I'm frightened to ask him to bowl because he's done so much. He's incredible."

So lethal was the bowling that it took only 13 overs to put England back into deficit in the series. Dominic Cork faced the first ball, and any hopes that the pitch may have slowed down were soon dashed as the opening two balls climbed past his head. After a single, the fourth delivery slapped into Robin Smith's side, the thud sounding as if Mike Tyson had landed a right hook into a side of beef.

The second over was even more eventful. Cork, with his crab-like stance, looked like he might be blown away at any moment and immediately slashed Walsh to third slip. A hush descended around the packed ground, waiting to see who would come out next. It was Peter Martin, and though Stewart and Jason Gallian had both yet to bat, the West Indians knew they were into the tail.

Walsh, mixing up his length, then had Martin lbw before sending Gallian on his way with a nasty lifter that the injured Lancastrian had moved judiciously behind. To counter these sudden losses, Smith immediately cut Bishop for four to bring the subdued crowd to life.

Not to be outdone, Darren Gough then swung Bishop over the ropes at fine leg, an act of defiance that plumped up his chest until Walsh, now coming around the wicket, got him to fend one off his nose to gully from a no- ball, before pitching it up to have him caught in the identical spot as the batsman sliced uppishly.

When Smith's resistance finally gave out, playing on to a rare full-length ball that he tried to leave, England were dead and buried. Only some unnecessary short stuff to Richard Illingworth followed, the batsman cracking a knuckle just before edging the ball low to Hooper at slip off Bishop.

England may have been routed before lunch but that did not prevent most of the crowd from invading the pitch and setting up their picnics. Most, however, were livid, and some visitors from Jamaica, who have tickets for Monday were incensed and thought an apology from the TCCB was due. Instead, Warwickshire, whose county match finished even more quickly than this one, will play a 40-over match against the tourists tomorrow. Aggrieved ticket- holders can either receive a full refund or trade them in for next year's first Test. Most were taking the former.

Scoreboard from Edgbaston

(England won toss)

ENGLAND - First Innings 147

WEST INDIES - First Innings 300 (S L Campbell 79, R B Richardson 69; D G Cork 4-69).

ENGLAND - Second Innings

(Overnight: 59 for 3)

*M A Atherton b Walsh 4

(beaten by ball which kept low; 33 min, 21 balls)

R A Smith b Bishop 41

(bowled off bottom edge of bat; 156 min, 84 balls, 8 fours)

G A Hick c Hooper b Bishop 3

(gloved to second slip; 3 min, 2 balls)

G P Thorpe c Murray b Bishop 0

(edged to wicketkeeper; 10 min, 6 balls)

D G Cork c sub (S C Williams) b Walsh 16

(back-foot slash to third slip; 44 min, 33 balls, 1 four)

P J Martin lbw b Walsh 0

(driven on to back foot and trapped lbw; 9 min, 5 balls)

J E R Gallian c Murray b Walsh 0

(caught by wicketkeeper off shoulder of bat; 1 min, 2 balls)

D Gough c Campbell b Walsh 12

(fended off helmet and caught at gully; 43 min, 30 balls, 1 six)

R K Illingworth c Hooper b Bishop 0

(gloved to second slip; 12 min, 8 balls)

A R C Fraser not out 1

(5 min, 1 ball)

A J Stewart absent hurt 0

Extras (nb12) 12

Total (163 min, 30 overs) 89

Fall: 1-17 (Atherton) 2-20 (Hick) 3-26 (Thorpe) 4-61 (Cork) 5-62 (Martin) 6-63 (Gallian) 7-88 (Gough) 8-88 (Smith) 9-89 (Illingworth).

Bowling: Walsh 15-2-45-5 (nb5) (one spell); Bishop 13-3-29-4 (nb5) (6- 3-8-2, 7-0-21-2); Benjamin 2-0-15-0 (nb2) (one spell).

Progress: Second day: 50: 79 min, 15.4 overs. Close: 59-3 (Smith 33, Cork 15) 17 overs. Third day: Innings closed: 12.18pm.

West Indies won by an innings and 64 runs.

Umpires: M J Kitchen and I D Robinson.

TV Replay Umpire: J W Holder.

Match Referee: J R Reid.

Man of the Match: S L Campbell (West Indies).

Adjudicator: M A Holding.

Previous results: First Test (Headingley): West Indies won by nine wickets. Second Test (Lord's): England won by 72 runs.