July 1, 2000

England's great victory in a great match - Wonderful Walsh frustrated

Lord's: West Indies (267 and 54) lost to England (134 and 191 for eight) by two wickets.

Cornhill Insurance

The hundredth Test match at Lord's was one of nostalgia, as great players and great matches were frequently recalled. It was entirely fitting that this landmark match should go down in history among the most exciting.

`Great' may perhaps be an exaggeration, as in a truly great match one would expect high quality from every department of the game, and after the first afternoon there was little to commend with the bat. But the second day saw some remarkable cricket, as first England collapsed dramatically, and then the West Indies outdid them. The final day saw a desperately close finish, as first England, with the odds against them, placed themselves in line for victory and then appeared to be sliding ignominiously towards defeat, before a thrilling ninth-wicket partnership between the northerners Dominic Cork and Darren Gough pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat. It could justifiably be claimed that England enjoyed a fair amount of luck during the day, with numerous playing and missing by their batsmen, but it was a long overdue bonus and perhaps counterbalanced by the dismissal of Mike Atherton to a marginal decision.

    Northern Grit turns tide England's way

It was in fact a day for the north of England, as earlier two other northerners in Atherton and Michael Vaughan had taken their team more than halfway home with only one wicket down. England faced a none too easy target of 188 to win the Lord's Test match against the West Indies, but were severely handicapped by their own weather on the third morning, when only 11 overs could be bowled.

A steady drizzle prevented play until 11.50. Ramprakash nudged Walsh to third man for two to avoid his pair, but again failed as a Test opener. He had not added to his two when he tried to force Walsh off the back foot and chopped the ball on to his stumps via the inside edge. England were three for one, and after eight overs it had progressed no further, with Mike Atherton still to score.

So well did the West Indian veterans bowl and so doggedly did the Englishmen bat that Atherton took 23 balls to get off the mark and Vaughan 29. The first boundary came in the tenth over as Atherton played a fine forcing stroke backward of point off Walsh; two overs later he had the confidence to hook a no-ball Walsh for another boundary to fine leg. But before another ball could be bowled Jupiter Pluvius returned, the drizzle came down and the players went off with England 13 for one (Atherton 9, Vaughan 0). Lunch was then taken.

The West Indies, for their part, would not be too disappointed as the unscheduled break would allow Ambrose and Walsh to return later fully refreshed. Ambrose, despite his lack of a wicket, was sitting on the remarkable figures of six overs for one run.

    Dogged determination sees off West Indian fast bowlers

Play resumed at 1.35, and Atherton and Vaughan put up a superb fight, hanging on doggedly and then gradually picking up the runs. They saw off Ambrose and Walsh, and the 50 came up in the 23rd over. It was a constant struggle for concentration and survival, and every now and again the concentration snapped and the batsman flashed, but managed to survive. Atherton played an important part in guiding the inexperienced Vaughan in his first Test against West Indies. Ambrose finally came off after an exhausting spell of 13-8-13-0.

Soon afterwards Atherton was almost run out by bowler Rose going for a quick single; had King's shy hit the stumps, he would have been on his way. Perhaps overdue, Walsh returned from the pavilion end and in his first over picked up a crucial wicket as Vaughan, like so many before him, sparred at a ball moving away marginally outside off stump, got an edge and was caught by keeper Ridley Jacobs for 41. England were 95 for two and a crucial partnership had come to an end.

According to common belief, this was not a situation to be relished by Graeme Hick, but the second ball Walsh bowled to him disappeared like a rocket through the covers off the back foot; by way of reply, Walsh's next ball almost cut him in half. King proceeded to give Hick a workover with some vicious deliveries and was given a warning by umpire John Hampshire. Tea was taken at 109 for two (Atherton 44, Hick 9).

    Walsh hits back wonderfully

Ambrose opened with Walsh for this tense final session, when a maximum of 45 overs remained for the day's play. The immediate impression was that the great bowlers were now running low on fuel, although still able to produce the odd great delivery - but it might only take the fall of one wicket to refuel them.

Hick once again flattered only to deceive. Flashing outside the off stump, once again to Walsh, he snicked a chest-high catch to Brian Lara at first slip to depart for 15, and England were 119 for three. In such a match, with such a target, every wicket was a renewed potential crisis, and a second might prove disastrous. This was just what happened. Alec Stewart nudged a single to third man and Walsh, revitalized, produced a vicious delivery that whipped back to strike Atherton (45) at the top of the pad. There was a question as to height, but umpire Venkataraghavan had no hesitation in raising his finger. The whole balance of the match had swung violently in one over as the injured Nick Knight came in to bat.

A couple of uncharacteristic misfields helped to get the score moving again. Stewart produced two superb pulls for four in the same over from Rose, which relieved the tension somewhat and also brought him 1000 runs as captain of England. But then Walsh produced one of his most outstanding deliveries that cut back viciously from outside off stump and found Stewart (18) right in front of his stumps. This was the dismissal that finally sealed England's fate; 140 for five.

Craig White snicked his first ball marginally short of Lara at first slip and it took a replay to confirm that the ball had bounced. It did him no good, though, as another vicious delivery two balls later ripped through his defences, taking the inside edge on its way to the keeper, this time an excellent decision by umpire Venkat. Nick Knight and Dominic Cork both looked quite out of their depth at first, and defeat was seemed only a matter of time.

Knight (2 off 46 balls) was handicapped by his finger injury; he tried to force a full-length ball from Rose that moved away off the pitch and edged a catch to the keeper; 149 for seven. Cork played a frenetic innings for a while, while Caddick swatted a short ball from Rose over the covers for four. The West Indian over rate grew ever slower as the crowd applauded each run strenuously. But Ambrose returned for Walsh at the pavilion end and Caddick (7) fell for lbw the same way as his predecessors, beaten by a ball that whipped back from outside off stump; 160 for eight.

    Cork keeps his bottle: Adams' generous gesture

Cork looked nervy at times, inspired at others. He pulled a short ball from Rose over midwicket for six to set the crowd roaring, and at this point only another 20 runs were needed. A lofted four over mid-on followed, and ones and twos began to come again, mainly from Cork, as Gough played straight and safe. Gough did give one scare, spooning up a stroke to extra cover off Ambrose, but it bounced inches short of the diving Jimmy Adams, as the sporting West Indian captain immediately acknowledged. Another seven runs were now needed, with Ambrose and Walsh bowling their hearts out in tandem.

A couple of risky singles were scrambled, but Adams kept his team together with his quiet wisdom, his skill in a difficult situation again quite evident, in the best tradition of Frank Worrell. Amid mounting excitement two leg-byes were scrambled off the tiring Walsh to level the scores; finally Cork picked his gap in the off side and pushed the ball towards the boundary, where it was picked up by one of the horde of lawless spectators to invade the field. Cork made 33 and Gough 4; England 191 for eight.

    Jobs done superbly

Cork was declared Man of the Match by Ian Botham, ahead of Walsh, who finished the innings with figures of 23.5-5-74-6, and 11 wickets in the match. In contrast Ambrose conceded 22 runs off 22 overs in the second innings but did not take a wicket. Former West Indian pace bowler Colin Croft paid tribute to Ambrose, who he says did nothing wrong; his present role in the West Indian team is as a defensive bowler while Walsh is seen as the primary wicket-taker. Both did their jobs superbly but for once it was not quite enough - for which they have their batsmen to thank.