Illingworth shows Illingworth spirit

Click to follow
The last five days have been, in some respects, a throw back to Test matches of old, when batsmen prospered on flat, bare pitches and fielders soon gave best to grass parched by glorious summers. Brian Lara's 152 will provide someone, some day, with a misty-eyed memory.

To its detriment, however, this match was being steered towards a draw by forces that began converging even before a ball was bowled. Ron Allsopp's valedictory Test pitch was arguably too good for a contest not blessed with outstanding slow bowlers. With the series square and a sixth Test to come, it was a match which neither side were prepared to lose.

In Mike Watkinson and Richard Illingworth, whose 80-run unbroken partnership for the last wicket saved the game, England discovered two men with a depth of determination Raymond Illingworth believes should be inherent in a Test player but which, of late, has not always been conspicuously present in England's. It was this that Illingworth clearly regarded as the most encouraging aspect of England's five days, given that they never looked in serious danger of winning.

"I was pleased about that," the chairman of selectors said. "We got into a bit of trouble but fought on, which I felt was impressive. A year or two back, if we'd been in that situation we might have lost the match."

The trouble to which he referred developed with alarming speed as England's collapse was halted only by the courage of Richard Illingworth, willing to risk serious damage to an already broken right index finger, and a performance of skill and application from Watkinson, whose solid professional virtues had been overlooked too long.

The Lancashire captain was grateful for his good luck when Sherwin Campbell dropped him on 22. "It was a catch he would hope to hold more often than not," he said. "I'm pleased I was able to get a decent score, but more pleased to have saved the game, if that's what it did," he added. "Gus [Fraser] got stuck in and Illy did really well. We talked all the time about who was going to face which bowler, but fortunately we were able to manoeuvre the strike and stayed until the fast bowlers tired, when we knew the job was done."

Illingworth, unable to grip the bat with his injured hand, confessed to being "in some distress" even when a ball from the leg spinner, Rajindra Dhanraj, struck the damaged finger and agreed that he had jeopardised more than his place in the next Test by ignoring medical advice and playing. "But," he said, revealing the spirit his namesake wishes every England player to embrace, "the game needed to be saved and in those circumstances you live for today."