The strong silent type dominates the stage

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It is not always easy to identify character. Michael Atherton's baby- face, with his tousled locks and gingery whiskers, kept his inner steel well disguised until it was revealed under pressure.

Graham Thorpe, with his shock of black hair and square jaw, is more obviously the strong, silent type, the man for a crisis.

Looks can deceive, but not in this case. Of the many players who have come into the England team in recent years Thorpe, more than any other, appears to possess that mental toughness we more usually associate with the Australians. It shows in the quiet confidence of his public demeanour, and it shows in his phlegmatic batting. YesterdayThorpe was implacable, taking his occasional bruises with no more than a pitying look at the bowler as if to say - 'you may as well save your energy, it does not bother me.' Indeed, those were the precise words he used afterwards.

Thorpe can handle the rough stuff. He stands up to it, keeps his eye on the ball, and looks offended, rather than unnerved, if hit. "You expect it from the West Indies," he said, "you have to be as brave as you can.''

But it was not just courage and ability that he demonstrated, there was discipline too. Discipined bowling put England ahead on Thursday, now the same trait strengthened the advantage.

The West Indies, in their desire to dominate the bowling, had carelessly tossed away their wickets. Yesterday Thorpe, too, pursued an aggressive policy, but it was tempered with discipline.

The left-hander's 94 took just 147 balls but, even when he hit four successive fours he never slogged. Early on he was tempted, despite two men in the trap, to hook, but he kept the shot down. Later on, as he assaulted anything that was wide of his off stump, the ball again sped to the fence along the ground. Not for him the dramatic, thunderous, but risky, head-high cutting of Robin Smith.

Yet Thorpe is still vulnerable to lapses in concentration. His frustrating inability to turn 50s into 100s is perplexing. The trait is repeated at county level and barely a fifth of his half-centuries are upgraded.

"I cannot explain it," he said. "I do not change my approach as I get to the seventies and eighties," he said. "It would be nice, from a personal point of view, to make a hundred but as long as I am contributing to the team I am happy.''


(West Indies won toss)

WEST INDIES - First Innings 216 (B C Lara 87; A R C Fraser 4-45, D G Cork 4-86).

ENGLAND - First Innings

(Overnight: 65 for 2)

*M A Atherton c Murray b Ambrose 47

(173 min, 130 balls, 6 fours)

G P Thorpe c Murray b Bishop 94

(260 min, 147 balls, 12 fours)

R A Smith c sub (S C Williams) b Ambrose 44

(146 min, 106 balls, 5 fours)

C White c Murray b Benjamin 23

(84 min, 52 balls, 3 fours

R C Russell run out (Campbell-Arthurton) 35

(102 min, 86 balls, 2 fours)

M Watkinson not out 25

(78 min, 83 balls, 2 fours)

D G Cork not out 3

(11 min, 7 balls)

Extras (b17, lb5, nb29) 51

Total (for 7, 486 min, 108 overs) 347

Fall (cont): 3-122 (Atherton), 4-226 (Smith), 5-264 (Thorpe), 6-293 (White), 7-337 (Russell).

To bat: D G Cork, J E Emburey, A R C Fraser.

Bowling: Ambrose 18-2-69-2 (nb10) (4-0-21-0 8-1-33-1 6-1-15-1), Walsh 28-5-66-2 (nb6) (3-0-5-0 12-4-28-2 5-1-8-0 6-0-16-0 2-0-9-0), Bishop 24- 3-85-1 (nb10) (6-1-10-0 5-1-23-0 8-0-34-0 5-1-18-1), Benjamin 21-2-66- 1 (nb4) (2-0-6-0 7-1-21-0 6-0-25-0 6-1-14- 1), Adams 8-1-21-0 (nb3) (1- 0-5-0 7-1-16-0), Arthurton 9-2-18-0 (nb1) (one spell).

Progress: 100: 155 min, 31.5 overs. 150: 210 min, 43.2 overs. Lunch: 168-3 (Thorpe 41, Smith 19) 48 overs. 200: 289 min, 60.2 overs. Rain stopped play 3.12pm - early tea taken at 226-4 (Thorpe 70, White 0) 67 overs. 250: 350 min, 71.5 overs. 300: 426 min, 88.2 overs. Rain stopped play 6.14pm.

Thorpe 50: 142 min, 85 balls, 6 fours.

Umpires: H D Bird and C J Mitchley.

TV Replay Umpire: J C Balderstone.

Match Referee: J R Reid.