September 1, 2000

A strange day

Cornhill Insurance

Even though there was a loss of more than 200 minutes on this second day, it was sometimes hard to understand the plans or indeed the plot of both teams. It was even suggested by some, as early as the 1st session on Day 2, that maybe neither team really wanted to play to win the game. Personally, I doubt that very much. I also believe that neither team is good enough to dictate such terms. Jimmy Adams, the West Indies captain, assured me thus:

"We are going to do everything possible to win this game, restore some West Indian pride, and at least keep some good history in our cricket going for a while."

Roger Harper, the West Indian Coach elaborated somewhat:

"It would be great to win this Test, squaring the series and sending Curtly (Ambrose) into retirement with a present he deserves, a win in the game, and at least not losing the series. That would be the best present we as a team could give to him. It will also preserve our history "

Of course, they were both referring to the fact that since 1969, England have not managed to win a Test series against the West Indies. It should be further noted, though, that the last two times the West Indies visited England on a full tour, 1991 and 1995, the teams played to a 2-2 draw on each occasion. If this ends at 2-2, that would simply be par for the course.

Duncan Fletcher, the English Coach, confirmed another of my suggestions:

"Playing for a draw, despite the fact that we now lead the series, is very dangerous. While we know that we are close to making a bit of history if we win this series, we could lose the perspective and the game if we were to be defensive and think about a draw, even now. There is much too much time still left in the game now, so such thoughts will not only be premature, but dangerous. We are being as positive as we can be. If we win 3-1, that will be wonderful."

At least the West Indies came back somewhat into the game on Day 2, despite some very confusing tactics. If you remember, I suggested at the end of Day 1, when England were 221-5, that the West Indies needed to do two things to effect a total come-back into this game. Firstly, they had to try to restrict England to a 1st innings total of no more than 275. That was achieved somewhat, England managing a bit more, 221. Secondly, the West Indies needed to get England out by lunch on Day 2. That was not achieved, and no, the rain had nothing to do with it. At lunch on Day 2, England had moved to 255-8, and they could have been dismissed by then had the West Indies shown a bit more resolve and gambled a bit.

As expected, the 2nd new ball was taken almost immediately on the 2nd morning. Unexpectedly, the West Indies then neglected to do anything else to effect that attacking mode needed so that they could complete the English innings by lunch. Instead of placing additional fieldsmen in positions to take catches, Jimmy Adams, more conservative than he needed to be, then removed close fieldsmen to the outfield in order to stop runs. That made no sense. The West Indies needed wickets quickly.

My immediate reaction was to think that this was crazy. Why make everything possible by taking the 2nd new ball, only to negate its presence by defending, despite the fact that the first five overs yielded only six runs. In my mind, the first session on Day 2 showed a complete lack of imagination by the West Indies captain and his advisors. England does not need to win the game. They simply do not want to lose it. It is the West Indies who needed to force the pace to effect a win. At best, they were being pedestrian, pacing around in the two hours before lunch as if they were waiting for something to happen, as opposed to making something happen. England, on the other hand, played along too.

Graeme Hick and Graeme Thorpe survived 18 overs of the 2nd new ball before Ambrose, bowling as well as ever, moved a delivery back into Hick with the batsman caught on the crease; out LBW for 17 with the score at 254. Thorpe soon obliged, as has been the case in this game so far, in making wickets come in two's. At the same score, he again mis-read Courtney Walsh's slower ball, as he had done in the 3rd Test at Old Trafford, again to be out LBW. Astonishingly, Thorpe did not even look up at the umpire, but turned and trooped off immediately, for he knew the conclusion anyway. However, he had made a very valuable 40; England 254-7. After swiping and missing a few times, Dominic Cork then missed a straight ball from the much improved Nixon McLean and was also out LBW, for "0", England 255-8.

As one fellow Sports Journalist put it: "Despite the unbelievable unenterprising tactics of Jimmy Adams, his bowlers still came through for the team, as all three dismissals had been LBW, having no help from the captain at all." Just a bit more effort and resolve, and the West Indies would have gotten England all out by lunch.

The rains came immediately, and between the rain showers, after the official break, England finally managed to get to 281 as Craig White and Darren Gough put on 17 precious runs after Andy Caddick had been dismissed for 04 with the score at 264. My ball-park figure of a maximum of 275 had some merit, but was undermined! What was funny to observe was that after the rains had come for the 1st time, the West Indies fielders suddenly seemed to remember the task at hand, as they were not only agitated, but were actually running to their positions, after being so pedestrian before the luncheon interval. It was comical.

Overall, though, the West Indies came back well . From 159-0, at least they fought back to restrict England to 281, so 10 wickets were taken for the further allowance of 122 runs, not a bad overall effort. However, in real time, that English innings lasted almost five sessions of a game which has a total of 15 sessions.

For the West Indies to now win this game, they will have to bludgeon maybe 450 runs in about 5 sessions, say late on Sunday afternoon, Day 4, then use the last four or five to prize England out for a second time. The race is on for the West Indies, against themselves, against the rain and against England. At least the West Indies closed Day 2 in good stead, not having lost any wickets at all. Starting Day 3 at 13-0, it could be a very eventful day. Stay tuned!!