Psychological advantage in final Test held by unfortunate tourists

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ENGLAND brought many supporters with them to Barbados and at precisely the moment it was least wanted, their weather arrived to join them.

The rain and the Mancunian grey skies that greeted them when they awoke yesterday and persisted throughout the day just about eliminated any chance their bowlers had to press for the result that would level the series. Even before the later interruptions that followed the delayed start, it had also completely erased whatever slim hopes of victory the West Indies harboured.

Yet when play finally did get under way, an England win - or more to the point, a West Indian loss - was not out of the question. The West Indies' batting has been so brittle and undisciplined of late that they have repeatedly failed to last the day's allotment of 90 overs. Ten times in their past eight Tests they have been dismissed in fewer than 75 overs, including three times in this series.

Here, England have secured all the psychological points, an encouraging prelude to the decisive Antigua Test. Yet it may be that too much is read into such an imagined advantage. Each time one side has seemingly taken the high ground, the other has come right back to reclaim it.

If Sir Gary Sobers' assessment that these are two poor teams is a little harsh, it is not far from the mark. They are certainly very evenly matched. It is the mentally tougher who will prevail in Antigua.