August 6, 2000

WI fight back

Manchester-After two days of generally miserable cricket, the West Indies produced a good one here yesterday. It was just in the nick of time. When it began, they faced the daunting reality that a repeat of the previous slackness that allowed England to build a dominant position in the third Test would lead to defeat in a match pivotal to the outcome of the series. They responded accordingly.

They controlled proceedings from the moment Curtly Ambrose's second ball of the day ensured that Alec Stewart would not extend his overnight 105 through to the last by when they had narrowed the expansive gap to near parity.

They confined the last seven wickets of England's resumed first innings to 107 runs, limiting the lead to 146 when, on the previous afternoon's evidence, it threatened to be double that.

It was sizeable enough all the same but Sherwin Campbell and Adrian Griffith, the ideal opening combination of contrasts, competently erased 96 of them and, after Campbell's dismissal for his third halfcentury in the series three-quarters of an hour before the end, Griffith and Wavell Hinds carried through to close at 131 for one, a mere 15 in arrears.

On a dry pitch becoming increasingly worn, a lead of 250 would present a genuine opportunity for a remarkable victory on the last day.

But it can only be achieved by maintaining the levels of yesterday's effort through to the end.

The right-handed Campbell, short and predominantly backfoot, took the lead as he and the left-handed Griffith, tall, frontfoot and watchful, consolidated the West Indies recovery.

Campbell stroked nine boundaries in 55 from 101 balls, mostly from cuts and a couple of exquisite cover-drives.

In the aftermath of a distracting sequence of four streakers and a clown in an Afro wig racing across the ground persued by chasing security staff, Campbell was dislodged by a wicked bouncer.

Delivered from round the wicket by the deceptively pacy Craig White, Campbell could only fend it off the glove for a diving low catch to Dominic Cork at backward point.

Hinds replaced him and, in the short time available and even in fading light, made a clear and obvious statement.

His only scoring strokes were five boundaries, the first off the legs through midwicket off Cork, the other four resounding hooks and pulls as Darren Gough went after him.

All series, but particularly at Lord's when the West Indies were routed for 54 in their second innings, England's fast bowlers have profitably employed the bodyline tactics that were once the preserve of the West Indies.

They are convinced their opponents are gun-shy, not least the most feared of them, Brian Lara. It was clearly an affrontery that required attention and a slow pitch was the ideal platform to launch the campaign.

After his recent dismissals from the hook, against Pakistan in the Caribbean and in the first innings at Lord's, Campbell has shelved the stroke.

Yet even the careful Griffith offered a couple, one earning him one of his four boundaries, before Hinds arrived to decimate Gough.

The job has only just started and the sight of the obdurate Griffith, who has been in for three hours, 20 minutes and 159 balls for his 41, and Hinds resuming this morning is as reassuring as that of Lara emerging from the pavilion at close of play to have on-field practice.

The West Indies attitude contrasted markedly with the lacklustre performance once Walsh had completed his extradordinary 3-0 spell from seven overs on Friday.

The sun shone, always a boost, and Ambrose's early strike was an immediate lift to the spirits.

Stewart was justifably lauded in the morning's papers for his 100th Test hundred and they made the most of the coincidence that it was on the day of the Queen Mother's 100th birthday.

Another standing ovation greeted him and his first-time partner, Marcus Trescothick, as they walked out onto the sunlit ground.

Three minutes, he was returning to a similar, if sadder reception after following Ambrose's outswinger and edging a catch to Ridley Jacobs.

After that, England were never allowed to regain any momentum as Walsh and Curtly Ambrose received more controlled support from Reon King and Franklyn Rose.

After 25 minutes, Walsh breached Trescothick's defence and bowled him off-stump off the front pad. The tall left-hander had added only a single to his overnight 65.

When Walsh was rested after sending down six overs, King replaced him and immediately found a sharp, perfectly pitched off-cutter that trimmed White's off-bail, just the start to boost a bowler inclined to too quickly come down on himself.

By lunch, Ambrose had gained another deserving wicket as Cork edged a catch to Jacobs in the third over with the second new ball and the lanky Antiguan was involved in all three dismissals after the interval that ended England's innings.

Robert Croft, with an assured, unbeaten 27, and Gough, with a couple of good blows at No. 11, ensured the total past 300.

Ambrose dismissed Michael Vaughan to a first slip slip catch, two runs after he was so plumb to Walsh's magic slower ball it was hard to explain what prompted umpire Peter Willey's not out decision, and also claimed Andy Caddick lbw before catching Gough at third man off Gough's wild, back-of-the-bat swing.

He is now only two wickets short of 400 but he remains adamant this is his last series.

The bowling statistics were revealing. Between them, Ambrose and Walsh had 54-21-120-8, Rose and King 32.2-6-135-2.

At least, on this day, they got the job done together and the batsmen followed up.

The trick is to repeat it every day.