July 2, 2000

Historic loss for Windies at Lord's

Lord's-For once, and for all their customorary endeavour, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh couldn't quite complete another rescue mission for the West Indies again foisted on them by their weak batsmen.

Once more, the champion fast bowlers defied their combined age of 73 to send down 45 overs and five balls between them as England scraped together the 188 they needed to win the second Test by two wickets yesterday before an engrossed Saturday crowd that filled Lord's for a spellbinding contest befitting of the famous ground's 100th Test.

Just as they ' and the many West Indian greats assembled for the anniversary of the historic 1950 victory ' had been let down by the batting on the previous evening in the West Indies stunning, all-out second innings 54, Ambrose and Walsh got little assistance from their younger, support bowlers. There none at all from lady luck as England levelled the series with the eighth wicket pair, Man of the Match Dominic Cork and Darren Gough, together in a partnership of 31.

To Walsh went the individual spoils, six for 74 from his 23.5 overs. It was the 21st time he had claimed at least half the opposition wickets, the fourth in successive Tests, further proof that he is as good now, in many ways better, than he has every been.

Ambrose's return from 22 magnificent overs was the last England wicket, Andy Caddick. On a day when the gods treated him more deservingly, he would have had all ten and the West Indies would be two up with three Tests remaining.

Only 22 runs came off him. The first was a gentle push by Michael Atherton through midon off his 27th ball of the day, an indignity that so infurated him he kicked the ground and cursed himself.

There were no more than a handful of loose balls - and only by his own standards .

He passed probing bats, rapped pads and found edges that skidded past stumps or wide of fielders with such regularity that even the most diligent observers lost count. After one cruelly fruitless over to the defiant Atherton, he plucked his white towel from his pocket and waved it, in frustration if not surrender.

But he and Walsh cannot continue saving lost causes by themselves. They need the backing of those who can relieve them when they need to rest. In this match, this was worryingly lacking from Franklyn Rose and Reon King.

Rose could not improve on his costly inconsistency of the first innings. His 16 overs cost him 67 and, after his one testing spell just after tea, he returned near the end to be pulled over squareleg for six and driven over midon for four by Cork in the same over that drew England to withint 16 of their target and obliged captain Jimmy Adams to recall the tired Walsh.

King, limping slightly, was used for only eight overs. Either captain Jimmy Adams didn't trust his fitness or wasn't willing to risk his young pretenders together.

In keeping with the earlier proceedings, neither team gained a definite advantage until the result was formalised just after seven o'clock by the ebullient Cork's cut boundary off a weary Walsh.

It was the perfect ending for Cork's return to the Test team after an absence of 18 months on the ground where he marked his Test debut in the corresponding Test five years ago. His unbeaten 33 added to his match return of seven wickets that, as in 1995, earned him the Man of the Match award.

The initiative shifted one way then the next throughout another gray, misty day. After a start delayed by 50 minutes by light rain, Mark Ramprakash dragged Walsh back into his stumps in the fifth over to end what could be his last Test innings. But England were seemingly coasting during a second wicket partnership of 93, the highest of the match, between their best and most experienced batsman, Michael Atherton, and their youngest and newest, Michael Vaughan.

Both rode their luck, repeatedly searching in vain for deliveries that left them sharply on pitching, especially from Ambrose. Vaughan gained umpire John Hampshire's favour on a close lbw against Walsh before he had scored and would have been run had Rose hit the stumps with his underarm flick on follow through as the batsmen sprinted a singlke.

England were still in the ascendacy at 109 for two at tea, even after Vaughan fished at Walsh's leg-cutter to be caught behind.

Walsh shifted the balance by removing Graeme Hick and Atherton within two balls and a run of each other in his third over on resumption. Hick edged uncertainly to Brian Lara at first slip and Atherton, on the backfoot to an off-cutter, was lbw after two hours 25 minutes of typical defiance that featured the type of battle with Ambrose that has been going on since they first confronted each other in 1991.

Another 20 runs were raised between Alec Stewart, the stand-in captain, and the left-handed Nick Knight but the expectant crowd was hushed by the fall of three wickets for nine runs in 23 balls that left England 149 for seven, 39 away from their target with only the bowlers remaining.

Stewart was lbw to Walsh in similar fashion to Atherton. Walsh also had Craig White, given out caught behind by umpire Venkataraghavan, possibly off his body, after edging close enough to Lara at first slip it took the television replay to determine on the claimed catch.

When Rose found Knight's edge for the second time in successive overs and Ridley Jacobs held the catch he had earlier dropped, England had declined to 149 for seven and only the fast bowlers remained.

By now, Walsh was tiring, Rose could find no reliable control and Cork chose attack as the best method. He cut Walsh to the cover boundary and drove him straight for an all-run four with the labouring King in pursuit, ending his spell of 12-2-39-5 and bringing back Ambrose. Ambrose immediately had Caddick lbw with his sixth ball but Cork would not be contained.

His two blows for six and four off Rose brought England closer and forced Adams to recall Walsh for one last try. With six needed, Cork drove a foot short of the diving Adams at midoff, the final frustration for Ambrose who continued to pass the bat to the accompaniment of oohs and aahs around the ground.

Rose missed the stumps with a throw from cover that would have found Gough well short of his crease with five needed and, next ball, Shivnarine Chanderpaul at cover fumbled a stroke, allowing the pair to complete a single that should never have been.

The force was now with England and soon the victory as well.