Smith saves England from sudden death

Second Test: Century partnership for fourth wicket cannot prevent West Indies' inevitable domination of the first day's play ENGLAND 255-8 V WEST INDIES
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Raymond Illingworth's co- selectors might have had a spot of difficulty identifying their team after the chairman had finished rearranging it, but as far as yesterday's long-suffering spectators at the second Test were concerned, recognition was more or less instantaneous.

John Major was otherwise preoccupied yesterday, but he has had plenty of experience of feelings of resignation while watching his favourite cricket team in recent years, and on the evidence of yesterday's performance, neither he nor any potential successor will manage to supplant Harold Macmillan as the incumbent Prime Minister when England last beat the West Indies at Lord's.

At tea, with Robin Smith and Graham Thorpe having put together an unbroken fourth-wicket partnership of 100, it looked as though England might be on their way towards what for them is a collectors' item - a first-innings total well above 300.

However, seasoned England watchers will not have become too pregnant with expectation, and a team that at least dominates world cricket in the art of squandering decent positions slowly declined from 185 for 3 to 255 for 8. This might have been even worse but for fallible fielding, and yesterday the tourists added three more dropped catches to the seven they put down at Headingley.

The popular inference that Illingworth runs this team single-handed was soon confounded when he allowed Michael Atherton to conduct the toss (an even nobler concession given that Atherton had previously lost all four such encounters) and on a sunny day, and a Lord's pitch that traditionally gets more uneven as the game goes on, it looked to be a propitious time to break the sequence.

However, while Atherton would not have seriously considered fielding first, there was enough movement from the new ball - both through the air and off the pitch - to make it more or less certain that England would not be casting away their wickets as they did at Headingley to a series of rash shots.

For most of the morning, they were merely intent on survival, and when they were two deliveries from the sanctuary of the lunch interval, a total of 70 for 1 (Atherton having been yorked by Curtly Ambrose) would have been regarded as a good morning's work.

At that point, though, Graeme Hick's crooked prod at Ian Bishop resulted in a comfortable catch to Brian Lara at first slip, and five deliveries into the afternoon session, Alec Stewart slightly compromised his stated preference for opening by succumbing to a stroke (as he did twice at Leeds) that would not have been too clever coming from a No 11.

Well though Ottis Gibson bowled yesterday, coming in for his Test debut as replacement for the injured Kenny Benjamin, his first wicket came from a ball that Stewart did well to reach, never mind toe-end to square cover.

Neither did Hick's 65-minute stay suggest that he has overcome his problems against this type of bowling at Test level, problems that are caused partly by a heavy bat (there are not too many booming front-foot drives on offer against the likes of Ambrose and Courtney Walsh) and an even heavier pair of feet.

England then rallied from Thorpe and Smith, although not everything came off the middle of the bat, and their eventual partnership of 111 should have been considerably less. Thorpe, on 6 and 32, was missed in the slips by Richie Richardson and Lara, and Richardson also dropped Smith when he had made 14 of his 61.

Smith began his 100th Test innings even more twitchily than he usually does, although this was hardly surprising given that he had been verbally deposited on Death Row, and once he got going, he looked far more like a batsmen with nine Test centuries and 24 half-centuries than he had at Headingley.

The other familiarity with Smith, however, is that the slower the ball takes to arrive, the less he likes it, and he yorked himself advancing down the pitch to Carl Hooper's gentle off-spin. Almost at once, Mark Ramprakash sliced Hooper to slip, and may only be one more failure away from the noose that was being prepared for Smith.

Soon after, Thorpe was caught in the slips not quite to the pitch of an attempted drive off Ambrose, and Darren Gough, having seen most of his life flash before him when an Ambrose bouncer plucked his eyebrows, was then caught in the gully fending off something almost as nasty from Gibson.

At that stage, England had lost four wickets for 20 runs, and it required an enterprising half-century partnership between Dominic Cork and Peter Martin (preferred to Phillip DeFreitas) to prevent a total collapse. Even so, Cork was beaten by Walsh's slower yorker in the final over to complete another deflationary day. Recalling non-deflationary days is, of course, a heavy tax on the memory.

Tony Cozier,

County reports, page 31


(England won toss)

ENGLAND - First Innings

*M A Atherton b Ambrose 21

(54 min, 41 balls, 1 four)

A J Stewart c Arthurton b Gibson 34

(124 min, 85 balls, 6 fours)

G A Hick c Lara b Bishop 13

(64 min, 44 balls, 1 four)

G P Thorpe c Lara b Ambrose 52

(153 min, 108 balls, 7 fours)

R A Smith b Hooper 61

(126 min, 107 balls, 6 fours)

M R Ramprakash c Campbell b Hooper 0

(11 min, 14 balls)

D G Cork b Walsh 30

(106 min, 77 balls, 4 fours)

D Gough c Campbell b Gibson 11

(29 min, 19 balls, 1 four)

P J Martin not out 22

(66 min, 47 balls, 3 fours)

Extras (b1,lb7,nb3) 11

Total (for 8, 373 mins, 89.4 overs) 255

Fall: 1-29 (Atherton), 2-70 (Hick), 3-74 (Stewart), 4-185 (Smith), 5- 187 (Ramprakash), 6-191 (Thorpe), 7-205 (Gough), 8-255 (Cork).

To bat: R K Illingworth, A R C Fraser.

Bowling: Ambrose 21-4-59-2 (nb2) (8-2-21-1 6-0-27-0 7-2-11-1), Walsh 17.4-5-38-1 (nb1) (9-2-17-0 2-1-8-0 3-1-7-0 3.4-1-6-1), Gibson 20-2-81- 2 (nb1) (10-1-44-1 2-0-13-0 6-1-15-1 2-0-9-0), Bishop 17-4-33-1 (11-3- 19-1 6-1-14-0), Hooper 14-3-36-2 (4-1-12-0 9-2-19-2 1-0-5-0).

Progress: 50: 83 mins, 19.2 overs. Lunch:70-2 (Stewart 33) 27.5 overs. 100: 158 mins, 36.1 overs. 150: 209 mins, 48.5 overs. Tea: 174-3 Thorpe 45, Smith 55) 57 overs. 200: 290 mins, 71 overs. New ball taken after 85.2 overs at 242-7. 250: 363 mi ns, 87.2 overs.

WEST INDIES: C L Hooper, S L Campbell, B C Lara, J C Adams, *R B Richardson, K L T Arthurton, J R Murray, O D Gibson, I R Bishop, C E L Ambrose, C A Walsh.

Umpires: D R Shepherd and S Venkataraghavan

TV Replay Umpire: A G T Whitehead

Match Referee: J R Reid