August 7, 2000

Stewart and Lara make for memorable Test

Cornhill Insurance

Incessant showers on the first and last day ensured that the third Test was robbed of its competitive edge. But the fairy-tale happenings with man-of-the-match Alec Stewart and the display given by a resurgent Brian Lara, which held us spellbound, made the Test so memorable.

Needless to say the modest West Indies total in the first innings, in the face of some fine pace bowling had gone a long way in raising England's hopes - until the third day - of forging ahead in the series. As it happened, the honours were shared with England knocking off 80 of the 293 runs that West Indies had set them as a winning target. In the process they lost Michael Atherton's wicket after a 61-run opening stand.

Had Ridley Jacobs held the straightforward chance behind the stumps, offered by Nasser Hussain on one, West Indies would, understandably, have felt, if they hadn't earlier, that had this game gone its full course, without the equivalent of a day's play being lost, they could have been in a position to force a victory. After all, had more time been available, they would not have declared until a larger lead had been gained.

While it can be said that England bowlers have achieved more than the batsmen in this series, it has been quite apparent that the West Indies bowling is somewhat innocuous without Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose. None of the other bowlers have been a threat or even difficult to score off at any stage in the three Tests played so far.

Nevertheless, with the relentless pressure exerted by Walsh and Ambrose, England batsmen need to do much work with their batting. Alec Stewart has been exceptional this summer. In both forms of the game he has excelled with remarkable consistency and aggression. Apart from his brilliant performances, the find of the season for England is Marcus Trescothick.

He has slotted in so comfortably as the opening partner for Michael Atherton. His successful form in the recent limited-overs tournament, continued in this, his debut Test match and provides him, as well as his team with a great deal of encouragement. It should be the answer to England's search for a regular opening pair, Atherton has had no less than a dozen partners before now.

In this Test, Trescothick had provided the support for Stewart in that monumental partnership of 179. With his innings of 66, lasting four-and-a-half hours, he showed that he is fully capable of building a solid foundation. Again, in the second innings he had put on 61 with Atherton and remained unbeaten on 38. But it is the rest of the England batting that will have to come under scrutiny.

With both teams level and only two Tests remaining, England will be aware of how vital the next Test will be. They will also be aware that Ambrose and Walsh may lack support but even by themselves they are enough to cope with. There is much work to be done by England batsmen.