Wickets tumble at Lord's
In all the great matches this celebrated old ground has hosted in more than 200 years, no day could have been more sensational, intense and unpredictable as the second of its 100th Test yesterday.
Incredible would not be an exaggerated description of the proceedings. They yielded 21 wickets for 188 runs from the 65.1 overs and each team batted twice albeit for one ball at the start by the West Indies and an over at the end by England the second time round.
The West Indies fell for their lowest total in their 123 Tests against England and their all-out 54 was only three more than their lowest all told, the 51 at the Queen's Park Oval in March last year, and one more than the 53 against Pakistan in Faisalabad in 1986.
It began with a wicket off the first ball and continued with a customary England collapse to Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, 134 all out that produced a seemingly match-winning first innings lead of 133 to the West Indies.
It then took a breathtaking turn towards its remarkable conclusion, with the clatter of West Indies wickets to the kind of fiery aggression that has been for so long their own hallmark. Every one was accompanied by boisterous, full-throated cheering from stands packed to capacity with 30 000 disbelieving spectators who had been sitting in familiar depressed silence only minutes earlier.
They even shouted their approval when umpires Srinivas Venkataraghavan and John Hampshire ended the day after one over of England's second innings as they set out after their target of 188 that would bring parity back to the series in every sense.
It was an understandable reaction for it saved openers Mike Atherton and Mark Ramprakash the agony of trying to surving seven more overs from Ambrose and Walsh in the gloom.
They are back at it again this morning, England requiring 188 to win to bring psychological and actual parity back to the series. It is more than they have managed in their four previous Test innings.
Ambrose and Walsh are past masters of defending low totals, not least when they destroyed England for 46 in Port-of-Spain in 1994. The target then was quite similar 175.
Their present accomplices, Reon King and Franklyn Rose, were as responsible for the latest escape, when Zimbabwe were bowled out for 63 in search of 99 at the Queen's Park Oval in March. Their effort will have to be as intense and as disciplined as it was then if England are to be denied this time.
Rose's lack of control yesterday, when he conceded 17 from his first over and 32 from seven, will be a severe handicap.
There were several explanations for the phenomenal happenings. The most accurate was aggressive fast bowling of high quality that exploited a pitch of generous, but even, bounce against batsmen of inadequate technique. Erratic umpiring was another factor in the equation.
In a reversal of the established stereotypes, Ambrose and Walsh swept England aside with straight, good-length direction and movement each way off the seam while the rejuvenated Andy Caddick, five for 16 from 13 menacing overs, and Darren Gough undermined the West Indies with flat-out pace and a concentrated bodyline attack, leaving Dominic Cork to polish things off with his swing.
Seven England wickets fell to edged catches to slips and keeper all of Walsh's four, two to Ambrose whose other two were the only ones bowled for the day and one to King. Five West Indians were out to catches off deliveries pounded into to the helpful pitch to rise sharply. Two were taken off the outside edge.
From the television replays, Wavell Hinds and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, appeared to have been ruled out off forearm and body, rather bat or glove, Hinds' second umpiring misfortune for the match.
But the West Indian batsmen were repeatedly struck about the body and, once, on the helmet and looked discomforted by the assault mounted against them and by Caddick's late swing.
Walsh wasted no time in getting at the England batsmen. He was lbw to the day's first ball to finish the West Indies innings and he and Ambrose were quickly among their prey.
On the ground where he plays his county cricket for Middlesex, Ramprakash added another 0 to the two he collected in the corresponding Test in 1995, edging a loose drive off Ambrose's sixth ball to first slip.
At opposite end, Mike Atherton sliced an uncharacteristic cut off Walsh's sixth ball into Brian Lara's lap in the same position, and England were nine for three when Michael Vaughan, dropped at second slip by Sherwin Campbell in the previous over, was bowled off his front pad defending against Ambrose's off-cutter.
They had added only a single when Walsh (5-4-4-1) gave way to Rose who was so short and wayward that Graeme Hick pounded four fours off his opening over. It was the type of indiscipline that cannot be afforded in the second innings.
Ambrose soon ended the nonsense by breaching Hick's backfoot defence to hit off-stump but a straightforward miss by Lara at first slip off Walsh let Alex Stewart off at nine and allowed him to add a further 17 that, in the context of later happenings, were precious runs.
Before Stewart eventually went to a thick edge to Ridley Jacobs off Walsh's leg-cutter after lunch, the left-handed Nick Knight had been King's solitary wicket, sparring at one angled across him to be taken at second slip.
Craig White's priceless 27 were cut short by Jimmy Adams direct hit from cover that found him well short of his ground on a scrambled single, and when Cork was snapped up by Jacobs off Walsh at the same score, England had just reached 100.
The last two wickets, both involving the ebullient Gough, added a further annoying 34 in which Gough's pulled six off Walsh raised voices in the stand for the first time.
They became louder and louder in acclamation as the West Indies came out to put the match beyond England and, instead, tumbled meekly.
The collapse started with Campbell's dismissal in the third over, cutting at a high, wide bouncer for Gough to scamper around from third man to gather an excellent tumbling catch.
Hinds was undone second ball and Adrian Griffith just failed to take his bat away against Gough to be caught behind in the ninth over. At ten for three, the crowd was now in a frenzy and the two bowlers were tearing in with intent.
The big wicket, of course, was Lara's and it came after 19 uncomfortable balls with a stabbed catch high to gully's left off Caddick in the 12th over at 24 for four.
It was quickly 24 for five with Venkat's ruling against Chanderpaul, who departed indicating the ball had come from his body to Ramprakash at short-leg.
Jacobs met the crisis in the way he knows best. Attacking, he sliced a catch over third slip that damaged the leaping Knight's left middle finger on its way to the boundary, pulled another boundary and then, driving at Caddick, edged to Atherton at first slip.
In the next over, Adams was given out lbw by Venkat who apparently decided he had not offered a stroke to one from Cork that struck him outside off-stump and the total only crept past 50 when Walsh and King, with the aid of four leg-byes off King's helmet from Caddick, put on 13.
Ambrose prodded Caddick to shortleg, Rose pushed tamely back to Cork who rounded things off by claiming King lbw.
Eight overs were available when England went in again but the elements reduced them to one and left the outcome to be decided today.