August 5, 2000

A Day of Encouraging Fortunes for the West Indies

The figures speak for themselves. Curtly Ambrose: 27 overs 7 maidens 70 runs 4 wickets. Courtney Walsh: 27 overs 14 maidens 50 runs 4 wickets. Again, the "Old Boys" were magnificent. Again, the West Indies owe a tremendous debt to these absolutely unsinkable battleships, perhaps aging, but definitely still as dangerous, especially when given just a whiff of an advantage. With Ambrose's dismissal of English batting hero Alex Stewart with the 2nd ball of the 3rd day, for his overnight 105, that whiff was immediately present. When Walsh bowled Marcus Trescothick off of his pads, things smelled even better for the West Indies. Even without any real help from the back-up bowlers, Ambrose and Walsh saw their team through a good 3rd day.

This was enhanced even more when the West Indies openers, Sherwin Campbell and Adrian Griffith, with some panache, attitude and aptitude too, managed to defy the English fast bowling, and off spinner Robert Croft, for 96 runs, the best opening partnership so far this tour. Had Campbell not received the proverbial "unplayable" delivery, from the surprisingly quick Craig White, which Campbell actually did play, somewhat unintentionally with his bat handle, to backward point for Dominic Cork to take a brilliant running cum diving catch, the West Indies might have even closed without losing a wicket. To close at 131-1, and Adrian Griffith batting all of 3 hours 20 minutes for 41 not out, showed that the West Indies can muscle up some resolve. Only in deficit to the England lead of 146 by 15, the West Indies could look back on Day 3 as the turning point of Test 3.

While England did make 303, thanks to Stewart's 105, Marcus Trescothick's 66 and a wonderful rear-guard effort by the late order English batsmen, after the team had slumped to 210-6 from the overnight 196-3, England should have been disappointed at the final score. 400 seemed more possible.

Duncan Fletcher, England's Coach, explained Day 3:

"We played very well in the first two days, while on Day 3, we probably faltered a little bit. The first ten overs on Day 3 were crucial, and if we had gotten away with losing only one wicket in that time, we probably would have been very happy with that. The West Indies have two great fast bowlers in their team who could bowl on any surface, really, and you always have to worry that if these two guys strike, then it makes life very difficult for the batters. While it was not (Courtney) Walsh this time, as it was on the 2nd day, it was (Curtly) Ambrose who got the immediate vital wickets. We lost three wickets in that early session which set us back and then the West Indians batted well. I do not blame it on luck. They simply batted well. The openers put their heads down and grafted well. Griffith showed that he went in there very determined, did not play any loose shots and Campbell played a good innings.

On Day 4, we would like to bowl the rest of the batsmen out for about an additional 10 runs, then go on to win the game. Simply, now, we have to go back in there and put on the pressure and not allow them to get too many runs. We have to restrict them to not getting too many runs and then to go and get the score. Past games have struggled to get past three days, but this has been a good wicket and the batters could get down and run some decent scores. I might have expected a bit more from the England bowlers, but it does happen a lot that when a team gets a big lead, a time to defend and a time to attack sometimes causes some confusion as the bowling team would want to get in there and get as many wickets before the close as possible. As a result of that, the team would likely leave many gaps in the field placing and the batsmen took advantage of that. Yes, I have been impressed at the way the West Indies batters have come out and showed great determination, despite the lead that England had. It was nice to see, however, that we could get to 303 and especially that the West Indies struggled to knock over the tailenders. 250 would be about the maximum we would like to chase on this wicket."

After Jimmy Adams, at the end of Day 2, had suggested that the West Indies would like to restrict the English batsmen to another 70 on the 3rd day, he nearly got his wish. England only added another 107, and that was due mainly to the lower order batting well. The West Indies had responded in the way they should have, with determination and a direct plan. To the end of Day 3, things had changed for the West Indies somewhat, much more promising.

Sherwin Campbell, the West Indies vice-captain, put things into proper perspective:

"Having been set a deficit, our target was just to go out there and bat for a long period, with determination, but to enjoy ourselves too, being as positive as we could be. My own dismissal (in the 2nd innings from an "exploding" delivery) does not really concern me. One or two deliveries are taking off from a length. That is good for us, in a way, as we are not batting last. I was a part of the decision making team which suggested that we bat first after winning the toss. It might still turn out to be a good decision, but having said that, there are still two days to go. Things did not go our way yesterday (Day 2), but we chose to think about the next day and we came out very positively on Day 3, kept things as tight as possible and then to get some wickets too. This is a very important Test match and we do not want to go down in this game. It was very important that we had a great rest after Day 2 and come out fresh on Day 3. That is exactly what happened. We simply came out on Day 3 very positive, ready to go and things worked out in our favor. 250 would be fairly reasonable score to defend on this pitch for the team fielding last. This game still has a very long way to go before the end. This is Test cricket, and anything can happen for the rest of the game. Adrian (Griffith) played really well, hanging in there to the end. He will still come back on Day 4 and he could get a big total. Curtly (Ambrose) bowled as well on Day 3 as he has been bowling, but he had a bit more luck this time. Things just went his way. From now on, they, hopefully, will continue to go his way. Alex Stewart's 105 was a well put together innings. He got a good explosive start and continued on. I think it was a really good innings. We had to remove him early on the 3rd day, as we knew that as long as he remained at the crease, he would score quickly and put the pressure on us. We were glad to get that wicket, especially Stewart's, so early."

Day 3 was probably the fulcrum of this Test match. If the West Indies could continue their batting well on Day 4 and gain an ascendancy, then England could be facing 200-250 to win the game. England would be trying desperately to get early wickets on Day 4 to restrict the lead to under 200. This Test match is turning out to be a tight rope act. A slip could be very detrimental. Day 4 promises great intrigue.