West Indies going through the motions

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The Independent Online
reports from Lord's

Middlesex 237 and 52-0 West Indies 456 and 213-9 dec Match drawn

There was something rather dispiriting about this third day's play yesterday. The West Indies gained a first-innings lead of 219 on a wearing pitch. With a minimum of 81 overs to be bowled, Middlesex would have had an interesting fight to avoid an innings defeat.

Yet the West Indians, captained by Brian Lara, decided to bat again and their obvious lack of interest in the proceedings caused them to sink to 148 for 8 in their second innings. After that, Keith Arthurton - always a most commendably determined cricketer - and Kenneth Benjamin took them past 200.

By the time these two had come together, Mark Feltham, at the merest fraction over medium pace, had taken 6 for 41, the best figures of his career. Apart from Carl Hooper, who at the start of the innings made an attractive 50 in 45 balls, and Arthurton, no one appeared to give a thought to their own reputation or indeed to the enjoyment of the small crowd who stayed to the end - maybe because they had fallen asleep.

Matches between the touring side and the counties, especially in the second half of the summer, are another part of the traditional English cricket scene to have been harmed by the large amount of domestic one- day cricket which is so physically demanding and allows the players so few days off during the season. With a lot more county matches to come and players already weary at the half-way stage from a tough domestic programme, Middlesex will sadly but understandably have been grateful to rest some of their main players.

This alone will not have been seen as a mark of respect by the West Indies who, content that several of their main players are in good enough form for the fourth Test match that they could be rested, were happy to make themselves safe from defeat by Middlesex even though victory beckoned on this last day.

The fact that the crowd numbered 5,000 on Saturday and 4,000 on Sunday shows that the public do not regard these matches as a waste of time. Once they have been scheduled with the agreement of the visiting board of control, the players have a duty to give their best and try to win.

By not enforcing the follow-on, coupled with the approach of most of their batsmen in the second innings, especially Lara who ambled two steps up the wicket to push defensively at Paul Weekes and carried on walking when the ball spun past his outside edge, the West Indies did nothing to enhance their reputation. A group of barrackers from Jamaica down by the Old Tavern seemed to agree.