England's cricketers attended a 100th birthday party last night - not, as rumour first had it, for one of their own players, but for Cornhill's centenary home Test match. Furthermore, the team that might be more appropriately sponsored by Age Concern has a more than decent chance of cracking open a case or two of something with a bit more fizz than Sanatogen wine by the end of this fourth Test.
When it comes to pushing the boat out at Test matches in Manchester, the picture that usually springs to mind is of two umpires pulling on Mae Wests before rowing out to inspect the square, but there were two phenomena here yesterday that no one would have predicted.
Firstly, the cricket was twice interrupted because of sunshine, and secondly, England, despite losing a toss they desperately wanted to win to make optimum use of their two-spinner strategy, bowled out the West Indies for only 216. Even then, on a pitch with more bounce than they would have liked against this particular opposition, there was potential for disaster, but 65 for 2 represents a serviceable reply.
Initially, one feared the worst. The pitch appeared made for the West Indian strokeplayers, the outfield was like a waxed marble floor, and the tandoori oven temperatures conjured up images of Angus Fraser requiring the services of McAlpine to winch him out of his bath at the end of the day.
However, Fraser and Dominic Cork bowled so beautifully that England were even able to afford the luxury of three dropped catches. Mike Watkinson picked up the other two wickets with his off-spin, and while John Emburey performed his usual trick of bowling well without getting anyone out, he more than justified his selectorial billing as the best slow bowler currently operating in England.
It should be said that they were fortunate, Brian Lara excepted, to find the tourists in one of their less vertebrate moods, and the glare from the sun which caused the two hold-ups was pretty feeble compared to the glare that the West Indian coach, Andy Roberts, would have reserved for most of his incoming batsmen.
The first stoppage caused an early tea, and another entry in Dickie Bird's catalogue of misadventures. Dickie has brought players off for just about everything in his time - rain, bad light, bomb scares, blocked drains, you name it. But an excess of sunshine in Manchester? Good grief.
Apparently, the glare was coming from a B&Q pot-plant greenhouse at the back of the Stretford End, and as it has been there for 27 years without causing a problem, it was less of a glare than a reflection - a fair reflection on the sort of weather Manchester is more accustomed to having.
Having omitted Graeme Hick and Darren Gough, the portents were not good for England when Fraser's first ball of the match was pulled for four by Carl Hooper, and Cork's third over earned him an official warning (and the first of Dickie's agitated flaps) for running down the pitch in his follow-through.
However, once Sherwin Campbell had thin-edged to Russell aiming a booming drive at Fraser, most of the West Indian batsmen did not threaten (as an England player might do one of these days) to die of old age. To England's credit, they set traps and made intelligent bowling changes, but some of the tourists' batsmen would have been turned down for a job in the 1945 Japanese Air Force on the grounds of being too reckless.
Carl Hooper donated his wicket (nothing new here) with a miscued pull at Cork, and the new, slimline John Crawley made the sort of running catch he would not have got even close to in Australia last winter. Fraser produced a beauty to have Jimmy Adams caught at second slip, and right on lunch, Richie Richardson's nothing shot resulted in another slip catch off Fraser.
Emburey disproved the theory about old dogs and new tricks by actually turning the ball several times, but it was Watkinson who took the two spinners' wickets in his third and fourth overs. Arthurton, having just smitten him so far for six that the ball was returned via a commuter on Old Trafford railway station, drove carelessly to deep cover, and Junior Murray, who batted as though he had never faced a spinner in his life before, slogged to deep midwicket. And there, taking a beautifully judged catch, was the near 43-year-old Emburey.
Meantime, the only thing that seemed capable of preventing Lara from making his first century of the series was running out of people to bat with, but after making a not altogether flawless 87, Lara fell leg-before to a fine ball from Cork that nipped back into the left-hander. If the Gough euphoria is beginning to look dangerously premature, then Cork has emerged as a bowler of genuine quality.
The West Indies tail evaporated in a bout of slogging exaggerated even by their standards, leaving Nick Knight, not unexpectedly, to face a torrid baptism. Curtly Ambrose had him caught off a no-ball in his first over, but just when Knight was through the worst, he was confused enough by Courtney Walsh's slower ball to inside edge a wide full toss into his stumps.
A close of play score of 65 for 1 would have made it an exceptional day, but John Crawley, perhaps because it was the final over, fatally padded up to a ball from Walsh that was heading for nowhere other than the off stump. England have too fat a cock-up file to start celebrating just yet.
Glenn Moore, Tony Cozier, page 23
(West Indies won toss)
WEST INDIES - First Innings
C L Hooper c Crawley b Cork 16
(58 min, 50 balls, 3 fours)
S L Campbell c Russell b Fraser 10
(36 min, 23 balls, 2 fours)
B C Lara lbw b Cork 87
(155 min, 118 balls, 16 fours)
J C Adams c Knight b Fraser 24
(50 min, 39 balls, 3 fours)
*R B Richardson c Thorpe b Fraser 2
(7 min, 7 balls)
K L T Arthurton c Cork b Watkinson 17
(56 min, 48 balls, 2 fours, 1 six)
J R Murray c Emburey b Watkinson 13
(38 min, 21 balls, 1 four)
I R Bishop c Russell b Cork 9
(33 min, 18 balls, 2 fours)
C E L Ambrose not out 7
(42 min, 18 balls, 1 four)
K C G Benjamin b Cork 14
(15 min, 11 balls, 3 fours)
C A Walsh c Knight b Fraser 11
(13 min, 14 balls, 2 fours)
Extras (lb1 nb5) 6
Total (260 min, 60.2 overs) 216
Fall: 1-21 (Campbell), 2-35 (Hooper), 3-86 (Adams), 4-94 (Richardson), 5-150 (Arthurton), 6-166 (Lara), 7-184 (Murray), 8-185 (Bishop), 9-205 (Benjamin), 10-216 (Walsh).
Bowling: Fraser 16.2-5-45-4 (nb2) (8-2-22-1, 7-3-22-2, 1.2-0-1-1); Cork 20-1-86-4 (nb3) (10-1-33-1, 10-0-53-3); White 5-0-23-0; Emburey 10-2-33- 0; Watkinson 9-2-28-2 (one spell each).
Progress: 50: 81 min, 19 overs. Lunch: 94 for 4 (Lara 38) 28.5 overs. 100: 126 min, 30.2 overs. 150: 176 min, 44 overs. Tea: Taken early at 3.25pm due to glare from sunlight on greenhouse at 184 for 7 (Bishop 9, Ambrose 0), 53 overs. 200: 238 min, 55.4 overs. Innings closed: 4.20pm.
Lara 50: 96 min, 67 balls, 9 fours.
ENGLAND - First Innings
N V Knight b Walsh 17
(75 min, 45 balls, 2 fours)
*M A Atherton not out 15
(110 min, 78 balls, 1 four)
J P Crawley b Walsh 8
(33 min, 26 balls, 1 four)
Extras (b8, lb4, nb13) 25
Total (for 2, 110 min, 22.3 overs) 65
Fall: 1-45 (Knight), 2-65 (Crawley).
To bat: G P Thorpe, R A Smith, C White, R C Russell, M Watkinson, D G Cork, J E Emburey, A R C Fraser.
Bowling: Ambrose 4-0-21-0 (nb4) (one spell); Walsh 10.3-3-16-2 (nb3) (3-0-5-0; 7.3-3-11-2); Bishop 6-1-10-0 (nb4); Benjamin 2-0-6-0 (nb3) (one spell each).
Progress: 50: 85 min, 16.4 overs.
Umpires: H D Bird and C J Mitchley.
TV Replay Umpire: J C Balderstone.
Match Referee: J R Reid.Reuse content