Richardson puts pressure on himself and his team

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The Independent Online
TONY COZIER

In many regards this was the West Indies' worst day of the series. They were left to drift without a sense of purpose, an inkling of imagination or a modicum of initiative. They were simply rudderless.

This is a match they must win to regain some of the respect their indifferent performances over the past six months have cost them. When the second day began, with England 233 for 5 and a ball just five overs old, they held the initiative. Inexplicably, they - or to be more precise, their captain - seemed not to appreciate it and surrendered it to opponents quick to seize on ambitious tactics.

Choosing to start with Ian Bishop and Courtney Walsh, instead of Curtly Ambrose, his most dangerous bowler on the previous day, Richie Richardson provided them with the discouraging setting of just two slips, no gully, and only a forward short leg of the others in an attacking position.

Even before an hour was up, he had introduced Carl Hooper's steady but hardly menacing off-spin prior to summoning Ambrose or his fourth, worthy fast bowler, Kenny Benjamin, and was soon stationing five fielders on the boundary's edge.

These were the tactics of a skipper lacking conviction. Even if the intention was to try to frustrate England it was always dubious. In fact, it had the opposite effect. The bowlers were the ones who became increasingly distressed as Graeme Hick and Jack Russell, relieved of any pressure, attacked and the out-cricket became sloppy.

This, as he and everyone else appreciates, is a mightily important match for Richardson himself and the West Indies. His leadership on the field has been heavily criticised back home and his efforts yesterday would have done nothing to placate those demanding his replacement.

Inevitably in such situations, whatever luck was going went the other way. Hick's continuing uncertainty against the short ball might have provided a couple of early catches to close legside fielders but the edges tended to elude or drop short of groping fingers and the otherwise flawlessly brilliant Shivnarine Chanderpaul dropped a straightforward catch off Russell that proved costly.

Even at the very end, with umpire Ramaswamy's obvious error against Stuart Williams things went against the West Indies.

There were, at least, a few bright moments. Belatedly introduced, Ambrose again bowled beautifully. He has been bothered for some time by the shoulder ailment that first surfaced towards the end of the last English county season and has seldom been at his best since. Here, his direction and length were always impeccable and, without trying to extract life from a pitch almost as dead as the one at Trent Bridge, he moved the ball both off the pitch and, as he rarely does, also swung it in the air. His five wickets were no more than he deserved.

If Courtney Walsh did not quite reach the same heights his notable landmark of 300 wickets, which have taken him 11 years to accumulate, is indicative of a yeoman effort in the cause of West Indies cricket. No one has tried harder. His has seldom been the star role in the team. Others, such as his mentor Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall and, more recently, Ambrose himself, have been the ones to take the spotlight with their extra pace and devastating spells. But Walsh has been able to fill any requirement asked of him by his various captains and, promoted to using the new ball so late in his career, has proved as versatile as any of the great fast bowlers who have worn the maroon and silver.

He is now 32 but just keeps plugging away in spite of the demands placed on him by continuous cricket for both his county and country. His leadership qualities were also in evidence when he was appointed caretaker in the absence of Richardson for tours of India and New Zealand and he may well find himself summoned yet again in that capacity before very long.

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