August 4, 2000

Lord's revisited

Manchester-The spectre of Lord's hung as ominously over Old Trafford for much of the first day of the third Test yesterday as the dark, rain clouds that caused a delayed start, three interruptions and the loss of 45 of the 90 allocated overs.

But, as the sky cleared and brilliant sunshine bathed the ground for the last, extended hour, so too the gloom enveloping the West Indies batting was lifted by the stylish assurance of Ramnaresh Sarwan, 20 and in his first overseas Test, and the typically dogged application of his captain, Jimmy Adams.

Together, they converted another potential disaster of 49 for four into 87 for four when play was finally called an hour-and-a-quarter beyond schedule.

The position remained precarious, with only wicket-keeper Ridley Jacobs and the bowlers left, but it would have been devastating had either lost his head or his wicket in negotiating the last 11.1 overs.

Adams has had to traverse the road to ruin countless times during his 46 Tests.

He thrives on such challenges and, in his unfussy, unattractive way, was 16 at the end. He even allowed himself the extravagance of two off-drives off Dominic Cork, one of which reached the boundary, the other that pulled up a few yards short.

On the other hand, Sarwan, in his third Test, is new to the fickle ways of West Indies batting. His unbeaten 84 on his debut in Barbados against Pakistan in May immediately certified his temperament but it was now put to the severest test.

He again passed it, troubled by only a couple of the 43 balls he received but otherwise certain and compact in closing on 17.

He was obliged to enter after Wavell Hinds and an unusually unsettled Brian Lara were dismissed within seven balls of each other at the same score 40 minutes after the third break for the weather.

His team's plight was dire when Sarwan made his way down the steps of the pavilion to take his appointed place in the middle.

He had watched from the dressing room as the innings unfolded in the face of fast bowling, principally from Darren Gough, of the quality, if not the method, that had destroyed the West Indies for 54 in their second innings at Lord's.

After the start was delayed by an hour to allow the outfield to dry sufficiently from its drenching of the previous day and overnight, Adams won the toss and chose to bat.

He would have been regretting his decision within 25 minutes as openers Sherwin Campbell and Adrian Griffith fell within the first six overs.

Why the captain changed his plan after sending the opposition in on each of the previous three occasions he won the toss was not obvious.

The forecast was for the weather that duly materialised, upsetting the batsman's rhythm while allowing the bowlers to keep fresh. Surely, the pace-based attack would have been most effective on the opening day, as they were when England folded for 179 in the first Test.

The continuous prodding and brushing of the pitch by all the batsmen indicated a concern that all was not well with the pitch but those who fell were undone by no more than excellent bowling, their own technical inadequacies and, in poor Hinds' case, what appeared to be another unlucky decision.