West Indies in Roberts' debt

An old master has worked a miracle,
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Andy Roberts' message has finally got through to his fast bowlers.

Since succeeding Rohan Kanhai as the West Indies' manager, prior to the series against Australia in the Caribbean in March, Roberts has begged and beseeched his quick bowlers to observe a fuller length and to eliminate the no-balls that have proliferated over the years.

At the end of the Tests against Australia he openly complained. "I just can't get the fast bowlers to listen to me," he said. Throughout that contest the tactic was almost exclusively to pound the ball into the pitch in the expectation that the Australians would be intimidated.

On this tour Roberts has repeated his refrain. As perhaps the shrewdest of the fast bowlers produced by the West Indies over the last 20 years, he clearly knew what he was talking about. At Lord's yesterday, on a slow pitch offering little encouragement his charges finally followed his instructions.

Over the first half of the day, before the ball lost its shine and hardness English batsmen must have wondered whether the opposition was indeed the West Indies. There were precious few bouncers and they found themselves forced to play off the front foot more frequently than they might normally do in a series.

Curtly Ambrose was consistently at the batsmen and might well have had more than the solitary wicket he earned with the perfect yorker which shattered Michael Atherton's stumps. When he and Courtney Walsh were replaced by Ian Bishop and Ottis Gibson the ball swung and consistently threatened the edge.

In his debut Test, Gibson also pitched the ball up more than normal and was unlucky not to find the edge more often. It was ironic that his first wicket should have been with a wide long-hop, for he had delivered at least a dozen potential wicket-takers before that.

The matter of no-balls has also occupied Roberts. It came to a head at Durham last Saturday when Bishop delivered 17 in as many overs and Gibson had nine in 13 overs.

On the following morning Roberts pointedly took all the bowlers to one side and read them the riot act. The effect has been immediate. Throughout the first three hours yesterday they overstepped the crease only twice. The beneficial effect to the West Indies was evident in England's faltering start.