September 4, 2000

England close in on recapturing Wisden Trophy

Cornhill Insurance

England's recapture of the Wisden Trophy after 31 years in opponents hands edged closer this afternoon following another superb performance from England's pace bowlers.

At tea, England needed another two wickets to add the Trophy to a cabinet that this summer has been filled with a Test series win against Zimbabwe and a superb victory in the NatWest Triangular Tournament.

West Indies on 205 for eight, still needed 169 runs to deprive England of a win and although a ninth wicket partnership of 38 between Nixon McLean and Curtly Ambrose was entertaining a packed Oval crowd, the chances of pulling off a shock result still looked remote.

Andrew Caddick (4-54) and Darren Gough (3-64) were once again the heroes of the hour as England's pacemen once again posed too big a challenge for the West Indian batsmen.

Resuming after lunch on 89 for three, West Indies main hope Brian Lara immediately hooked Craig White to the square leg boundary as a statement of intent for the afternoon but the plan backfired next over when Adams, clipping a ball from Caddick off his legs found White at backward square leg.

One of the most crucial alliances of the day was broken with West Indies facing more embarrassment on 94 for four. But Lara continued to delight the capacity crowd with some magnificent batting and provided an exciting display of powerful, beautifully timed and effective strokeplay.

For a while he and Ramnaresh Sarwan, who was equally stylish at the other end, dominated the bowling forcing Darren Gough out of the attack after one ten run over.

The runs came thick and fast providing excellent entertainment until the 53rd over, after the pair had added 46, when Lara called for a single but changed his mind leaving it too late to allow Sarwan back to the crease.

His collision with Graham Thorpe, running at the stumps, left him prostrate on the ground having ricked his neck but the third umpires decision will have not have surprised the batsman and Sarwan departed for 27, the score 140 for five.

By then half the scheduled overs were completed and half the wickets in bag but it was the dismissal of Brian Lara that allowed England reason to twitch with anticipation at the prospect of a victory.

Gough's first ball back of the spell rapped Lara on the pads and umpire David Shepherd adjudged him lbw causing dismay among the West Indian supporters who had been blowing horns and bazookas all day in encouragement.

When he went, West Indies were 150 for seven with Mahendra Nagamootoo and Nixon McLean doing their best to reduce the likely margin of defeat. Nagamootoo survived four overs, playing a couple of immaculately timed straight drives, before becoming Gough's 25th victim of the series pushing forward to be given leg before.

His departure forced Curtly Ambrose out of the dressing room and down the steps for the last time in his career to make a grand and emotional entrance onto the field. In acknowledgement of his remarkable achievement, the England players lined up along the path to the crease and applauded the great West Indian, in a gesture never before seen on a Test square.

More warm applause rippled around the ground among the 18,500 strong crowd who had flocked to the Oval in anticipation of two important moments of cricketing history - Ambrose on a Test field for the last time and England winning back the Wisden Trophy.

In 1948, Don Bradman chose the Oval for his final Test appearance and arrived at the crease to be greeted by the same sort of reception as Ambrose enjoyed today. Unlike Bradman, Ambrose showed few signs of having his concentration ruined by this tear-jerker of a moment, and lasted beyond two famous balls.

In fact, despite a slip cordon which extended almost to mid on, Ambrose survived to tea, with 24 runs to his name while McLean was unbeaten on 17.