August 8, 2000

A share of spoils

Manchester-A fascinating Test deserved better than the anti-climax of a last day spoiled by the infamous Manchester weather, but both teams would have been comfortable with the eventual draw. By batting on as long as they did in the morning, the West Indies demonstrated that they had no intention of putting their hard-earned fightback at risk.

Jimmy Adams didn't declare until an hour and five minutes and 17 overs in the day.

England were set 293 for an unlikely victory, a target more than 100 runs in excess of any winning total at Old Trafford, and would have been relieved not to have had to battle through the 71 overs the West Indies had available to bowl at them.

They only got through 33 in between the light showers that kept umpires Peter Willey and Doug Cowie and the groundstaff busy.

More than once they brought the players onto the ground only to immediately leave again.

There was much skylarking during the on-off episodes but it contrasted with a rare intensity to the confrontation between Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh from one end and Michael Atherton, Marcus Trescothick and Nasser Hussain 20 yards away at the other.

With an outright result out of the question, it was a matter of scoring points ahead of the fourth Test, starting Thursday week at Headingley, Leeds.

The two oldtimers worked themselves up to something nearing the pace they managed in their youth, each occasionally touching 87 miles-anhour on the speed gun, and gave each batsman a severe examination.

There were more bouncers in the intermittent sessions after lunch than have been seen through some entire days from the West Indies this series.

Atherton took a couple of blows on the glove, Hussain was hit on the body and the left-handed Trescothick had a few deliveries whistle past his chest.

There was plenty of eyeballing and macho chat but, when play was finally called for poor light at 5:20 p.m. with 38 overs unused, England had lost only Atherton, caught behind off a perfect leg-cutter from Walsh.

Hussain has endured a horrid season with 134 runs in all first-class matches at an average in the low teens and he escaped just before the end when Ridley Jacobs spilled a straightforward, two-handed catch off Walsh.

Trescothick, whose Test debut has been as impressive as his initial showing in the preceding One-Day Internationals, came through the examination unscathed and unbeaten on 38.

But his first scoring stroke would have been a fourth slip catch off Walsh had Adams been bold enough to attack more.

The West Indies' overall plan when they resumed at 381 for six, already 235 to the good, was hard to determine.

Franklyn Rose was an early, predictable lbw victim (for the fourth time in five innings in the series), moving in front of his stumps to play Craig White to leg. But while Jacobs took his time in adding 17 to his overnight 25 and carefully playing out the final over Ambrose hit with gusto and certainty for 36 that included a huge straight six from off-spinner Robert Croft.

In the end, it was all immaterial and the teams finished absolutely even on points.

The West Indies took a pummelling on the first two days, from the hostile bowling of Darren Gough, Andy Caddick, Dominic Cork and Craig White and the aggressive batting of Alec Stewart, named Man-of-the- Match by Ian Bishop for his dazzling hundred in his 100th Test.

They were groggy, on the ropes and ready for the taking, but staged such a stirring recovery, through Ambrose and Walsh, and their consistent batting, with Brian Lara to the fore with his dominant 112, that England suddenly found themselves on the defensive and battling for survival.

It emphasised how evenly the sides were matched on the generally true, even pitch that Test cricket deserves.