September 3, 2000

Atherton on verge of first London Test century

Cornhill Insurance

Michael Atherton was poised to complete the first London century of his Test career at The Foster's Oval as England's lead over West Indies continued to gather pace.

In a Test career spanning 11 years and 102 matches, Atherton has made 14 centuries but none of them at Lord's or The Oval - his 99 against Australia at Lord's in 1993 his best.

But at tea on the penultimate day of the fifth Cornhill Test, Atherton was 11 runs short and England were 169 for seven in their second innings, leading West Indies by 325 runs.

The afternoon session proved costly for England as four wickets fell, including two in two balls to Courtney Walsh, who was three wickets away from breaking Malcolm Marshall's series record of 35, set in 1988.

He will have to take all three remaining England wickets in this innings to take the $50,000 prize put up recently in conjunction with the Malcolm Marshall Memorial Trophy unveiled earlier this week.

Atherton and Alec Stewart added 18 to the lunchtime total before their 65 run partnership was broken by a sharp catch at first slip by Sherwin Campbell taking it face high off the bowling of Mahendra Nagamootoo.

The dismissal of Stewart for 25 reduced England, who finished the first innings round with a lead of 156, to 121 for four but it was the resumption of hostilities by Walsh, who many believe is playing his final Test match, that led to a mini-collapse in England's middle order.

With the score on 139, Walsh got one to cut back at Vaughan finding him leg before for nine and the very next ball, Graham Hick was caught at first slip by Campbell.

Celebrations in the West Indies camp were lively but a spurt by Atherton and Craig White, which took the Lancashire opener into the 80's, quietened things down until White was run out for 18 after taking a risky single to Walsh's return from short mid wicket.

By then the new ball had been taken and both Atherton and Dominic Cork have a challenging few overs ahead after tea to prevent West Indies from making too early a start on their second innings.