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July 1, 2000
How fitting that the hundredth Test match staged at the Head Quarters of cricket should end in such exciting climax. England's marvellous performance deserves the highest accolade and calls for celebration after victory in a Test match that remained enthralling to the end and must go down in history as one of the most memorable.
It was touch and go in this gripping third day and called for nerves of steel from England's tail enders in the final stages. They responded magnificently, showing total commitment to their task in a situation that was tense, dramatic and sensational. They remained unwavered in their determination as they neared the victory target of 188 while facing bowling of high class led by two great fast bowlers, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose.
Just how difficult scoring was is reflected in the bowling analysis. Ambrose conceded 22 runs in as many overs and Walsh dismissed six of the first seven England batsmen for 74. He finished with a haul of ten wickets for the match, the first time against England and the third time in his career. They hardly deserved being on the losing side after such brilliant bowling.
Earlier in the England innings, Michael Atherton's three-and-a-half hour vigil at the crease had given England the scope to achieve the target. Under his guidance, Michael Vaughan gave fine support But Atherton, with his contribution of 45 runs, had taken England to 120 for 3 and after his dismissal a collapse began with five wickets falling for 40 runs and adding to the tension of such a tight finish.
Apart from Steve Waugh, the Australia captain, it would be difficult to come up with names that would match Atherton in terms of concentration and back-to-the-wall resistence. It would not be the first time that obduracy would be one of the main features of his innings but without question if there was a need for an unyielding innings, it was at that moment and Atherton provided it as he has done so often for his country.
Thereafter, it was man-of-the-match, Dominic Cork who held the scene and keeping a cool head, spent nearly an hour and a half at the crease to see England home by just two wickets. It is interesting to note that the last time England achieved a victory by the same margin was as far back as in the 1948/49 season in Durban.
Cork could hardly have wished for a more successful return to Test cricket after a twenty month absence. Apart from his heroic batting effort, he bowled with excellent control in both innings, claiming match figures of seven for 52 and playing the all-rounders role as well as England could have hoped.
This match marked the 50th. anniversary, almost to the day, of West Indies' first ever Test victory in England and it was most interesting to talk to Sir Clyde Walcott, who is on a visit to England and who played a major role in that win.
He recalled: " That first Test match win was a very memorable one because we had always gone along with the idea that Lord's was the Mecca of world cricket and everybody, of course, wanted to do well there and win the match.
"We knew we had a good side under the captaincy of John Goddard and although we started off losing the first Test at Old Trafford, we knew we could do well in the series. Our batting was good and we felt pretty confident. It was a great Test match here, Alan Rae scored a century in the first innings and I had one in the second innings. (Walcott had hit an unbeaten 168 with West Indies declaring on 425 for 6 ).
He added: "But the bowling of Ramadhin and Valentine will never be forgotten in that match, they were magnificent. They had taken all but two of England's wickets between them."
With one Test victory to each side, the series now opens up with promise of more exciting cricket this summer.
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