Watkinson spares England's blushes

FIFTH TEST: Illingworth's battered finger holds out as last-wicket stand denies West Indies the chance to take the lead in series England 440 & 269-9 dec West Indies 417 & 42-2 Match drawn
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A match pronounced dead on the fifth morning came tantalisingly close to being referred back to the coroner for a second opinion yesterday.

In mid-afternoon, the home dressing-room had abruptly altered from an emergency ward to a maternity ward - and the England captain, pacing anxiously up and down the balcony, gave birth to several litters of kittens before an improbable last-wicket stand finally laid the fifth Test match quietly to rest.

When England's last man, Richard Illingworth, went out with a broken finger to join Mike Watkinson, the West Indies were on the verge of a Sunday League-type victory target and, had it not been for a crucial dropped catch, England might this morning be contemplating going to The Oval 2- 3 behind.

Watkinson, having made only 22 of his admirable, almost heroic 82 not out in a precious two-and-three-quarter hours, swatted a full toss from Courtney Walsh straight to Sherwin Campbell at midwicket and, had Campbell not put it down, he would have been walking out to bat with the West Indies requiring 215 to win from 41 overs.

However, an hour and a half later later Watkinson and Illingworth had put on another 80 runs (England's highest 10th-wicket partnership since Peter Willey and Bob Willis made 117 against the same opposition in 1980) and Michael Atherton, by this time munching contentedly on a teatime scone, was even able to declare.

This was less a statement that England fancied their chances of bowling out the West Indies in the 20 overs remaining, as Atherton not wanting the next X-ray on Illingworth's right index finger to resemble a piece of crazy paving. Illingworth had already been wincing in pain after being hit three times by the leg spinner, and when Walsh was marking out his run with a new ball in his hands immediately after the delayed tea interval, Atherton called his batsmen back in on humanitarian grounds.

The West Indies responded by sending Brian Lara out to open, but even if Lara had been allowed to bat at both ends, 293 to win at 15 runs per over was scarcely a serious equation. Lara and Campbell both got out having a swish, but the teams finally shook hands with nine overs left unused.

England were 134 runs ahead with eight wickets (two of them crocks) remaining when play got under way and, well though the West Indies bowled - Kenneth Benjamin in particular - the hole England found themselves in after lunch was mostly of their own making.

Atherton, having stoically resisted for three and a half hours, was out to his 14th ball of the day, and while there is every reason to suppose that his open-bladed jab to a wide ball from Ian Bishop was death from the natural causes of a debilitating series, it was also a clear enough case of foul play for too much one-day cricket to be helping with inquiries.

As Atherton trudged back, he paused to have a word with the incoming Craig White. Normally, this would have been something along the lines of "good luck" or "watch out, it's keeping a bit low", but in this case it could well have been: "Excuse me, but don't I know you from somewhere?"

Whatever virtues Raymond Illingworth has spotted in White, the captain has scarcely ever spotted White on the field, never mind his virtues - and White has failed to overcome this even by the expedient of turning up his shirt collar to look a bit different. White bowled five overs (0 for 30) and faced 30 balls (2 runs) here, and it does not require any great foresight to speculate that his position may be up for review at Saturday's selection meeting.

White yesterday prodded a ball from Bishop to short leg, and as England steadily declined, only Jack Russell got out to a good delivery, as Benjamin slanted one across him. Benjamin is an underrated bowler, and would probably be as fast as Bishop if he chose to run in without more gold around his neck than England will find is left in Kimberley when they go there this winter.

Nick Knight received a warm hand after his sickening blow on the head the previous evening, but his crouched carve at a widish one from Benjamin was the stroke of a man whose senses were not entirely restored. Courtney Browne's catch behind the stumps was the only one of the five he took yesterday that was remotely difficult.

Graham Thorpe, meantime, had battled his way through the morning session for the addition of only 22 more runs, and roughly the same number of bruises as Bishop and Benjamin regularly tattooed his fingers, stomach and ribcage. This sort of working over takes a mental toll, and Thorpe was finally out soon after lunch playing an horrendous legside hoik to a ball from Walsh a foot wide of off stump.

Walsh, as is his custom, enjoyed an office worker's luncheon of closer to an hour than 40 minutes - which is, apparently, not so much a tendency to linger over the cheese and biscuits, as the need for a massage.

Walsh is knackered, Curtly Ambrose is struggling with a shoulder injury, and Bishop was forced to go off yesterday with an ankle strain. Just for once, an England-West Indies injury count is not entirely one way.

The series itself could not be better balanced, either, although England tried pretty hard not to give themselves a good chance of winning it. Dominic Cork was another man out to a hopeless shot, and only the battered- fingered Illingworth and the butter-fingered Campbell kept them afloat.

County cricket, page 21


(England won toss -final day of five)

ENGLAND - First Innings 440 (G A Hick 118no, M A Atherton 113; K C G Benjamin 5-105)

WEST INDIES - First Innings 417 (B C Lara 152, S C Williams 62; R K Illingworth 4-96)

ENGLAND - Second Innings

(Overnight: 111 for 2)

*M A Atherton c Browne b Bishop 43

(217 min, 152 balls, 4 fours)

G P Thorpe c Browne b Walsh 76

(267 min, 183 balls, 10 fours)

C White c Campbell b Bishop 1

(26 min, 17 balls)

R C Russell c Browne b Benjamin 7

(28 min, 16 balls, 1 four)

N V Knight c Browne b Benjamin 2

(20 min, 13 balls)

M Watkinson not out 82

(164 min, 137 balls, 9 fours, 1 six)

D G Cork c Browne b Benjamin 4

(7 min, 6 balls, 1 four)

A R C Fraser c Arthurton b Benjamin 4

(29 min, 22 balls, 1 four)

R K Illingworth not out 14

(90 min, 52 balls, 2 fours)

Extras (lb4 nb14) 18

Total (for 9 dec, 463 min, 104 overs) 269

Fall (cont): 3-117 (Atherton), 4-125 (White), 5-139 (Russell), 6-148 (Knight), 7-171 (Thorpe), 8-176 (Cork), 9-189 (Fraser).

Bowling: Walsh 30-6-70-2 (nb9) (12-2-27-1, 10-4-15-0, 8-0-28-1); Bishop 21-8-50-2 (nb4) (6-1-18-0, 7-3-9-0, 7-4-13-2 1-0-10-0); Benjamin 25-8- 69-5 (nb4) (8-4-22-1, 3-1-4-0, 2-0-9-1, 12-3-34-3); Dhanraj 15-1-54-0 (4-0-22-0, 3-1-5-0, 8-0-27-0); Arthurton 13-3-22-0 (4-0-7-0 9-3-15-0).

Progress: Fifth day: 150: 302 min, 64.5 overs. Lunch: 155-6 (Thorpe 69, Watkinson 5) 68 overs. 200: 389 min, 82.2 overs. 250: 454 min, 101.2 overs. Late tea: 269-9 (Watkinson 82, Illingworth 14) 104 overs. Declaration at 4.30pm, immediately after tea.

Thorpe's 50: 159 min, 109 balls, 7 fours.

Watkinson's 50: 116 min, 75 balls, 6 fours.

WEST INDIES - Second Innings

B C Lara c Russell b Fraser 20

(33 min, 30 balls, 2 fours)

S L Campbell c Russell b Cork 16

(40 min, 22 balls, 2 fours)

S Chanderpaul not out 5

(15 min, 8 balls, 1 four)

C O Browne not out 1

(7 min, 6 balls)

Total (for 2, 49 min, 11 overs) 42

Fall: 1-36 (Lara), 2-36 (Campbell).

Bowling: Fraser 6-1-17-1; Cork 5-1-25-1 (one spell each).

Progress: Match called off at 5.30pm.

Result: Match drawn.

Umpires: C J Mitchley and N T Plews.

TV Replay Umpire: G Sharp.

Match Referee: J R Reid

Man of the Match: K C G Benjamin.