|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Shop||Mobile|
Bat finally dominated ball often enough to bring the first draw of the series. But even though the last Test pitch produced by retiring groundsman Ron Allsopp was, by his own admission, a little too slow and lacking in bounce to be ideal, a fifth positive outcome appeared likely when a crucial catch was offered midway through the final afternoon.
England were only 214 ahead and nine wickets down in their second innings as Watkinson clipped Walsh straight to Campbell at mid-wicket. A fielder who had built a reputation for making difficult catches look easy spilled a relatively simple, two-handed chance and a heroic rescue act was allowed to develop. West Indies would have been left with 42 overs to chase victory and the contest could have gone either way. Instead, Watkinson - then 22 - went on to score 82 not out, his maiden Test half-century, while Illingworth defied a broken right index finger and medical advice to keep him company for 90 painful minutes. The last pair added 80 runs, 78 of them after Watkinson's escape, to steer England out of harm's way.
The first note of drama came on the eve of the match when both Atherton and Hick, who was restored to the team after Smith's accident, complained of stiff backs. England were sufficiently concerned to summon Yorkshire's David Byas to Trent Bridge and Russell contemplated the unexpected challenge of Test captaincy. But, next morning, the casualties declared themselves fit. Both went on to score centuries. An England batsman with a broken leg might have tried to drag himself into this Test: a docile pitch was welcoming enough but a West Indian attack forced to replace Ambrose - victim of his own back injury - with an internationally inexperienced leg-spinner, Dhanraj, was not to be missed. Three other West Indians made their first appearances of the series; Williams and Chanderpaul replaced the injured Hooper and Adams while Browne, who was born in London, was given a chance to demonstrate his qualifications to be first-choice wicket-keeper. For England, Illingworth returned in place of Emburey, having recovered from a blow to his left hand.
Atherton and Knight made such smooth progress up to tea it looked as though they might become the first England openers to bat through a full day's play since Hobbs and Sutcliffe, on the third day of the Melbourne Test in 1924-25. But then Knight offered no shot to Benjamin, Crawley edged the same bowler to a lone slip fielder, Atherton called for a single and was run out by Dhanraj's direct hit from mid-on and Thorpe snicked a ball angled across him by Bishop. From 148 for nought, England slipped to 227 for four by the close. Atherton had registered his country's first hundred of the series, but England needed another if their fine start was not to be wasted. It came from Hick (his third in 36 Tests) and was all the sweeter following the selectors' decision to drop him at Old Trafford. Uncharacteristically, he had made a public challenge to chairman Ray Illingworth to restore him, two days before this match. Smith's fractured cheekbone had provided a way back and the benign pitch offered every encouragement, but an undefeated 118 proved, on this occasion at least, that Hick could handle real pressure. With all but White helping out, England registered a solid 440 despite Benjamin's five-wicket haul.
The third day belonged to Lara. An exquisite 152 off 182 balls with 28 fours, his second century in successive Test innings, inevitably overshadowed important contributions from openers Williams and Campbell. Lara scored 104 out of a 140-run stand with Campbell - though he then took the back seat to Richardson, who smashed 40 out of 56. It was a real surprise to see Lara helping a leg-side delivery from Cork into Russell's gloves five overs from the close.
When West Indies were dismissed midway through day four, just 23 behind, stalemate seemed assured. Illingworth, his non-bowling hand heavily strapped after being hit while acting as night-watchman on the first evening, had claimed Test-best figures of four for 96, but most thoughts were with Knight, detained in hospital after a frightening blow to the back of his helmetless head. The ball had struck him behind the right ear while he was fielding three or four yards from Benjamin's swinging bat. Happily, Knight returned to Trent Bridge next morning. But, despite batting at No. 7, he was dismissed before lunch as England lurched into danger on the final day. Bishop and Walsh were both struggling with injuries and Dhanraj posed little threat, but Benjamin - superbly supported by keeper Browne- reduced the home team to 189 for nine. Benjamin finished with his first ten-wicket Test haul, an outstanding effort on an unhelpful pitch, while Browne held nine catches in the match, equalling the West Indian Test record. In the end, however, Watkinson and Illingworth made sure a 2-2 scoreline was transferred to The Oval... with Campbell's helping hands.
Man of the Match: K. C. G. Benjamin. Attendance: 52,199; receipts £946,688.
Close of play: First day, England 227-4 (R. K. Illingworth 8*, G. A. Hick 6*); Second day, West Indies 25-0 (S. C. Williams 16*, S. L. Campbell 8*); Third day, West Indies 334-5 (R. Dhanraj 3*, S. Chanderpaul 8*); Fourth day, England 111-2 (M. A. Atherton 38*, G. P. Thorpe 47*).