Butcher and Hussain claw their way back

Stephen Brenkley
Sunday 21 March 2004 01:00

Make no mistake, England are still in a contest. Assuming that West Indies avoid another implosion, the Second Test at Trinidad is as tight as a steel drum. It could go either way and will probably go to the team who do not lose their nerve. Given the home team's recent propensity for cracking up at the sight of a shiny, red ball the tourists may yet have a slight advantage.

Last night, however, England were involved in a grim struggle as rain and bad light severely curtailed the second day of the match. The loss of two early wickets for the second time in consecutive Tests ­ again it was Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick who went cheaply ­ was again followed by a vigilant partnership between Mark Butcher and Nasser Hussain.

They cannot have exactly relished their task on a pitch that had sweated under covers and was granting generous movement and capricious bounce, but they were zealous in their approach. Butcher was dropped at slip on 20 but by the time play ended on a miserable day, England had clawed their way back from 8 for 2 to 49 for 2, a deficit of 159.

As each over goes by, it become clearer that this match and this series seem destined to be decided by pace, some of it of the extreme variety. Steve Harmison, England's joyfully reborn spearhead, took his haul to 6 for 61 (and 15 wickets in the rubber) by finishing the West Indian first innings on 208. The miserable total was soon to assume monumental proportions.

Vaughan was removed by a beautiful piece of left-arm swing bowling by the recalled Pedro Collins. The one that slanted across was followed by the one swung sharply back. Tino Best, bowling at above 90mph, had Marcus Trescothick in trouble from the outset, with one (justified) appeal rejected and a catch dropped. But Trescothick was in woeful form and was undone for speed, spooning an attempted pull.

West Indies were suddenly rampant but before they had a chance to sustain their newly-gained momentum rain interrupted. England's experience saw them through. The game is evenly balanced but that was also the case a week ago.

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