August 19, 2000

Headingly massacre

West Indies cricket has endured an overabundance of heartwrenching humiliation in recent times but nothing has been more degrading than the shocking events here yesterday.

They began the second day of the fourth Test against England with a match finely balanced. They ended it as the first team since New Zealand were overwhelmed by Australia at Wellington in 1946 to go down in a Test in less than two days, the fifteenth in all to suffer the fate and the first in this country since England defeated South Africa in 1912, the year the Titanic went down.

Not so long ago, the West Indies were virtually unsinkable but they have now been holed so often at various overseas venues in the past five years, they are inclined to founder at the first sign of choppy water.

Their ignominy yesterday was created by atrocious outcricket and inept batting exploited by high-quality fast, swing bowling.

It was formalised with a clatter of wickets as they were bowled out for 61 and hammered by an innings and 39 runs with as many as 20.4 overs of the day remaining. It was their fourth lowest total in Tests and, significantly, three have been in the past 18 months, two in this series alone.

Not since 1966, in a meaningless Test at the Oval with the series already secure, had the West Indies gone down with England needing to bat only once.

They have not lost a series to England since 1969 but this result leaves them with a 2-1 deficit in the series and a severely damaged morale going into the final Test at the Oval, starting August 31. The Wisden Trophy, in their secure grasp since 1973, is in obvious danger of changing hands.

Hundreds of chanting, jubilant England fans gathered in front of the pavilion to hail their heroes at the end. They have had little to cheer for a long time but now they can sense they have the measure of opponents who so repeatedly humbled them for 31 years.

The few West Indians present were dumfounded. Some were so overcome by emotion, they wept.

The fragile nature of the West Indies batting, technically as well as temperamentally, is well established. It was blatantly exposed on the second afternoon of the second Test at Lord's when they were despatched for 54, a precursor to defeat in a match they had in their grasp, and, as they set out with a first innings deficit of 100, the same bowlers who destroyed them then did so again.

Roared on by a boisterous, ecstatic hometown crowd filling the ground to its 19 000 capacity, Darren Gough, the charismatic and adored local hero, initially undermined them with the first four wickets for eight runs off 29 balls, among them Brian Lara lbw for the second time in the match offering his pad, rather than his bat.

Andy Caddick, luckless and lacklustre in the wicketless first innings, returned for a second spell from the same Rugby Stand end from which Gough had created his mayhem to brush aside the feeble tail with the last five wickets for five runs from 15 balls, four of them in the same over.

The accuracy of England's bowling, and the technical weakness of the West Indies batting, was accentuated by the fact that the stumps were hit six times and would have been twice more had no pads got in the way for lbw verdicts.

Only Ramnaresh Sarwan, at 20, the youngest and, in his fourth Test, the least experienced of the lot, remained standing amidst the rubble, just as he had done in the faltering first innings.

When Courtney Walsh was bowled by Caddick at ten minutes past five, to set off a joyous invasion of the ground, Sarwan was unbeaten after an hour-and-a-quarter and for the second time in the match, having spent two-and-a-half hours and 138 balls while accumulating 76 runs all told.

It was a stinging indictment of his more illustrious teammates and the only heartening aspect of the whole sorry mess for the West Indies.

The West Indies problems that were instigated by their weak first innings batting on the first day were compounded by their shocking raggedness when England resumed 105 for five yesterday, still 67 in arrears.

From the start, the overnight pair, Michael Vaughan and nightwatchman Andy Caddick, adopted a deliberate policy of pressurising the fielders with urgent running between the wickets.

It caused panicky fumbling that accounted for several additional runs and errant throwing that gave away five overthrows within the first 20 minutes.

After Curtly Ambrose dismissed nightwatchman Caddick to a keeper's catch, the effort went to pieces completely as Reon King sprayed the ball like errant Scud missiles, sending Jacobs sprawling every which way, and conceding two wides and three noballs.

It was so bad, captain Jimmy Adams could trust him with only five overs.

It meant additional work for Nixon McLean and he could not maintain his control of the previous day, giving up an average of four runs an over as Vaughan and Graeme Hick sent England ahead with a partnership of 98 at nearly a run-a-minute clip.

Adams ended it by drawing Hick down the pitch for a straightforward stumping, out for 59 that went some way to restore his waning reputation here.

The fact that the captain was bowling himself was an accurate comment on the state of affairs and it was epitomised even more obviously when Dominic Cork's spirralling, miscued hook before he had scored sent up a dolly that Wavell Hinds at squareleg let slip through his grasp.

It denied McLean a second consolation wicket to add to that of Craig White and cost another 48 runs before Ambrose and Walsh completed the innings with the last two wickets with the second new ball.

Ambrose added his fourth wicket by inducing an edge from Vaughan whose topscore 76, spanning three-and-aquarter hours and featuring seven fours in all directions, earned him Sir Viv Richards' Man-of-the-Match award later.

It was a mature, composed innings by a relative newcomer to Test cricket, comparable with Sarwan's.

The West Indies set out on their second innings three-quarters of an hour before tea. By the interval, there were four down for 23 and there was no way back.

Adrian Griffith and Wavell Hinds were both first ball victims, undone by Gough's late swing from the first two balls of his second over, Griffith losing his off-stump, Hinds getting his pads in the way for umpire Doug Cowie's clearcut decision.

Lara survived the hat-trick but went to his 10th ball, the only difference from his first innings dismissal being that Gough was over, rather than round, the wicket as Craig White was.

Adams and Sarwan dug in an hour after tea, adding 26, before the captain took such a blow on the right glove from Cork it needed lengthy on field attention. Next ball after the treatment, Adams diverted a full length delivery back into his off-stump and the way was open for Caddick's dramatic over, his fourth of his second spell.

To the backdrop of wild celebrations, on and off the field, Jacobs was ruled lbw to the first ball.

McLean survived the second and lost his off-stump the third. The fourth spectacularly removed Ambrose's off-stump, the next was a no-ball, the fifth was survived by King who could not keep out the last as it hit off-stump.

Walsh remained long enough for the total to at least surpass Lord's 54 before Caddick hit his off-stump as well to complete the job.

What Sarwan made of it all from the opposite end is impossible to tell.

He has a long career ahead of him but it will be filled with unhappiness if such calamaties continue.