English hopes left in tatters

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England 147 and 59-3 West Indies 300

The only progress predicted for England yesterday was from the sports pages to the obituary column, and while they are still registering a pulse this morning, it would be a good deal more accurate to describe them as alive and twitching rather than alive and kicking.

As holes go, this one is the size of the gash in the Titanic, with England's repair kit consisting of a smallish stick of chewing-gum. Any faint prospect of rescuing the damage of a 153-run first-innings deficit evaporated in Edgbaston's early evening sunshine, when England lurched to a calamitous 59 for 3.

Michael Atherton had his middle stump surgically removed by a lethal off-cutter from Courtney Walsh, but the way Graeme Hick and Graham Thorpe got out reopened all the old doubts about England's resilience in a dogfight. When the chips are down, England get parcelled up with them like a piece of battered haddock.

Hick, whose eyes turn into organ stops when confronted by English medium- pace trundlers, invariably clamps them shut when a West Indian fast bowler bangs one in half-way down, and his horrid, head-turned flinch at Ian Bishop resulted in a gloved lollipop to second slip. It could just as easily have resulted in a trip to hospital, and what it should result in is a trip back to county cricket.

Thorpe was next to fling back his head - in sheer disgust at the way he was third out, for nought, with the total at 26. Thorpe's full-blooded flail at a wide full-length ball in Bishop's next over produced an outside edge to Junior Murray, and it is reasonably safe to assume that his return to the dressing-room did not result in a consoling pat on the back from Raymond Illingworth.

The England chairman was out in the middle half an hour before play began, peering at a pitch which had apparently been prepared on the assumption that this summer's tourists were Zimbabwe rather than the West Indies. He was probably ordering it to start behaving it a bit better and, when it did, it appeared to be another example of Illingworth's power of authority.

However, it merely turned out to be better behaved, because it was England's turn to bowl on it, and while they would probably have settled for keeping the West Indies to 300 all out from an overnight 104 for 1, the England attack was a long way from being as potent as it should have been - as was later demonstrated by Walsh and Bishop.

In fact, without Dominic Cork, the West Indies would probably have made the 400-plus total widely forecast for them without much bother at all.

Cork, bowling admirably straight from close to the stumps, took 3 for 27 in his opening nine-over burst, at which point the lack of productivity at the other end was mirrored by the fact that he had then taken 11 of England's last 12 Test wickets.

Cork also took the priceless scalp of Brian Lara with his third ball of the morning, Lara shuffling across his stumps and missing a straight ball with an angled bat and, at 171 for 5, only Richie Richardson stood between England and a rousing fightback.

Not so long ago, England would have regarded this as a pretty nasty obstacle, but the West Indian captain had hitherto been unrecognisable on this tour as the gay blade (old meaning) with the maroon plantation hat.

Nowadays, Richardson is as anonymous as everyone else under the steel lid, and the dried-up well of runs has bred acute introspection.

This began during the series against Australia, when it took him 12 hours to make 229 runs in the series, a rate of progress that looked positively breakneck compared to yesterday. He spent 41 balls with his total on seven, and finally sneaked into double figures after almost two hours of studied vigilance.

It was, however, just the kind of application that England could have done with in their first innings, neither did England get away with dropping him - a difficult chance wide to Atherton's right at first slip off Cork - when he had made 25.

After his last serious batsman, Murray, had been brilliantly caught by Alec Stewart to a snick that bounced out of Hick's hands at second slip, Richardson found a crucial ally in Bishop, with whom he added 62 for the seventh wicket.

Even when Bishop chipped Richard Illingworth to midwicket, England found it so difficult to remove a comparative duffer in Kenny Benjamin that a further 32 runs came from the eighth-wicket pair.

Fraser and Peter Martin both failed to extract much bounce from the pitch, and the rapier that England expected from Darren Gough this summer now looks disturbingly like a toothpick. Maybe Gough is not fully recovered from his side strain, in which case he should not have been playing.

In fact, it was only after two careless run-outs off consecutive balls that England finally got through to the last man, Curtly Ambrose, and it was Richardson's attempt to farm the strike which caused him to drag a ball from Fraser on to his stumps after his four-hour innings.

England were once again forced to press Robin Smith into opening, because Jason Gallian could not bat higher than No 7 after being off the field with a cracked finger, and Stewart had further damaged his own right index finger while keeping wicket. Ambrose's absence with a groin strain seemed to inconvenience the tourists rather less, and, barring miracles, England will today be beaten inside three days for the first time in a home Test match since 1966.

EDGBASTON SCOREBOARD

(England won toss)

ENGLAND - First Innings 147

WEST INDIES - First innings

(Overnight: 104 for 1)

S L Campbell b Cork 79

(204 min, 140 balls, 16 fours)

B C Lara lbw b Cork 21

(52 min, 42 balls, 4 fours)

J C Adams lbw b Cork 10

(36 min, 25 balls, 2 fours)

*R B Richardson b Fraser 69

(244 min, 174 balls, 10 fours)

K L T Arthurton lbw b Fraser 8

(35 min, 21 balls, 2 fours)

J R Murray c Stewart b Martin 26

(34 min, 24 balls, 5 fours)

I R Bishop c Martin b Illingworth 16

(80 min, 59 balls, 1 four)

K C G Benjamin run out (Atherton-Illingworth) 11

(56 min, 34 balls, 1 four)

C A Walsh run out (Cork) 0

(2 min, 0 balls)

C E L Ambrose not out 4

(11 min, 6 balls, 1 four)

Extras (b5, lb5, nb6) 16

Total (431 min, 98 overs) 300

Fall (cont): 2-105 (Lara), 3-141 (Adams), 4-156 (Campbell), 5-171 (Arthurton), 6-198 (Murray), 7-260 (Bishop), 8-292 (Benjamin), 9-292 (Walsh).

Bowling: Fraser 31-7-93-2 (nb2) (5-1-22-0, 5-0-13-0, 8-1-28-1, 7-2-16- 0, 6-3-14-1); Gough 18-3-68-0 (nb3) (6-2-22-0, 5-1-13-0, 1-0-8-0, 6-0- 25-0); Cork 22-5-69-4 (nb3) (9-2-19-1, 9-3-27-3, 4-0-23-0); Martin 19- 5-49-1 (2-0-12-0, 3-1-5-0, 9-4-19-1, 5-0-13-0); Illingworth 8-4-11-1 (3- 1-9-0, 5-3-2-1).

Progress: 150: 199 min, 45.4 overs. Lunch: 185-5 (Richardson 7, Murray 13) 61 overs. 200: 286 min, 64.3 overs. 250: 340 min, 77 overs. New ball taken after 87 overs at 273-7. Tea: 277-7 (Richardson 58, Benjamin 4) 90 overs. 300: 424 min, 96.2 overs. Innings closed: 4.39pm.

Campbell's 50: 168 min, 112 balls, 11 fours. Richardson's 50: 178 min, 120 balls, 8 fours.

ENGLAND - Second innings

*M A Atherton b Walsh 4

(33 min, 21 balls)

R A Smith not out 33

(85 min, 49 balls, 7 fours)

G A Hick c Hooper b Bishop 3

(3 min, 2 balls)

G P Thorpe c Murray b Bishop 0

(10 min, 6 balls)

D G Cork not out 15

(37 min, 28 balls, 1 four)

Extras (nb4) 4

Total (for 3, 85 min, 17 overs) 59

Fall: 1-17 (Atherton), 2-20 (Hick), 3-26 (Thorpe).

To bat: A J Stewart, J E R Gallian, D Gough, P J Martin, R K Illingworth, A R C Fraser.

Bowling: Walsh 9-1-36-1 (nb2); Bishop 6-3-8-2; Benjamin 2-0-15-0 (nb2) (one spell each).

Progress: 50: 79 min, 15.4 overs.

Umpires: M J Kitchen and I D Robinson.

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