June 30, 2000

WI let it slip

The West Indies twice had England just where they wanted them only to drop their guard and squander their significant early advantage in the final session of the opening day of the second Test at Lord's yesterday.

From the solidity of 79 without loss at lunch and the prospering assurance of 170 for two at tea, they declined to 267 for nine when play was halted for the second and final time with four balls still available.

They were undone by a familiar pair. Darren Gough and Dominic Cork, returning to the scene of his emphatic Test debut on the same ground in the corresponding Test five years ago, each took four wickets as the innings subsided.

The West Indies would not even have reached as far as they did had not Franklyn Rose arrived at 216 for seven and, as in the first Test at Edgbaston, laid about the bowling for half-hour in which he thumped a six and four fours in a run-a-ball 29.

The end of the day was in utter contrast to the beginning.

In their contrasting ways, openers Sherwin Campbell and Adrian Griffith had, by the first interval, erased England's supposed advantage of winning the toss and bowling first under a blanket of misty, grey cloud.

Positive from the start, especially in their running between the wickets, they comfortably and purposefully posted 79 off the first 30 overs in the first session, forcing stand-in captain Alec Stewart to go through his five main bowlers, all dealing in pace, but unable to find the expected swing and lacking direction.

England had missed three sharp chances in the slips - from Campbell at 20 off Darren Gough and at 35 off Dominic Cork; and Griffith at 19 off Cork - and were so deflated that another half-hour or so of the same was all that was needed to further crush their spirit.

Wasted wicket

Instead, Griffith wasted his wicket second ball on resumption. Taking on Andy Caddick's strong, accurate return to the keeper from long-leg as he tried for a needless, dicey second run, he was run out by a foot.

The manner was identical to his dismissal against New Zealand in Wellington last December when Dion Nash's similarly fast, flat throw from third man cut him short at 45.

Returning to the team in place of Chris Gayle, he had batted with calm assurance for 27, but such misjudgements are unforgiveable at this level and in this situation.

It obliged Campbell to change his tempo as he was joined by the belligerent Wavell Hinds. He contented himself with the support role, contributing 29 out of their partnership of 82 that consolidated the West Indies' position on a pitch that lacked the assistance England had expected.

Hinds quickly launched himself into booming drives through the offside, off front foot and back, taking three boundaries off successive balls from the medium-pacer Craig White and ending occasional offspinner Michael Vaughan's brief interlude with two boundaries down the ground.

Gough hit Hinds on the forearm before he had scored, and he and Cork peppered him with bouncers, noticing an uncertainty that Hinds will need to overcome. But, as always, he was ready to put bat to ball.

All the while, Campbell nudged his way towards what should have been three figures. He fell 18 short, failing to control a hook from a Cork bouncer that was too high for the stroke and hoisting a catch to longleg, ending three-and-three-quarter hours during which he hit 11 boundaries with cuts, cover-drives and leg-glances.

His loss was a setback but, at 170 for two at tea, with Hinds in dominant mood and Brian Lara his partner, the West Indies still definitely held the initiative.

It then changed dramatically, as it so often does, when Lara touched an expansive off-drive off Gough in the third over after tea and Stewart's gloves closed jubilantly around the catch.

The light, always marginal, had become even murkier by now and a break of 35 minutes for it to improve allowed Gough and Cork to have a welcome breather.

They came back charged up, generating pace, pounding in bouncers, finding the direction that had earlier eluded them.

They shared the next four wickets that went for 35 on resumption before Rose's counterattack.

Cork gained umpire Venkataraghan's verdict on an unconvincing appeal for a catch at the wicket off Hinds, whose fourth half-century in his last four Tests occupied two-and-a-half hours and included ten fours.

In the next over, captain Jimmy Adams took the third of the nine balls he received on the pad from Gough and umpire John Hampshire ruled the ball would have hit, not missed, leg-stump as it appeared it might have.

Ridley Jacobs, gloving a hook, and Curtly Ambrose, prodding to shortleg, fell cheaply to Cork, but Rose's assault altered things.

Matthew Hoggard, the young, bustling fast bowler on Test debut, took over from Gough, and was blasted for 16 on an over - meaty hooks for six and four and a couple of flicks for two and another four.

Gough quickly returned to claim Rose, lbw moving too far inside his stumps, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who could do nothing to halt the slide, taking 61 balls over 22 before he dragged his drive back into middle stump.

Chanderpaul, so stricken by a strained muscle in his right forearm that he had been unable to bat even in the nets since the first Test, had been given a fitness test in the nets in the morning and, with treatment, was chosen.

It was a calculated gamble but his experience and recent form were clearly too valuable to ignore, even for a player whose injury was said on Tuesday to need a lengthy rest.

Taking a cue from Rose, Reon King gathered three valuable boundaries before the light closed in again. But, given their start, the day ended unsatisfactorily for the West Indies.