Fifth Cornhill Test

ENGLAND v WEST INDIES 1991

David Field

Toss: England. Test debut: West Indies - Clayton Lambert

As if by calculation, Botham struck his only delivery of England's second innings to Compton's corner to complete the victory which secured a drawn series against West Indies for the first time since 1973-74. Compton's famous sweep for the Ashes triumph of 1953 had finished in the same spot, and in many ways this match was just as memorable in Oval Test history. Certainly it could hardly have had a more popular final scene to gladden English hearts, Botham, with his Comptonesque flair for the big occasion, sealing the win in his first Test appearance for two years. It was, moreover, his first taste of victory in twenty Tests against West Indies.

This was the coup de grâce, but notwithstanding Smith's hundred, it was the left-arm spinner, Tufnell, who played the key role in a result many thought beyond England, against opposition nearing their formidable best after wins at Nottingham and Birmingham. His six for 25 on a hot Saturday afternoon obliged West Indies to follow on for the first time against England in 22 years and 48 Tests, and presented his captain, Gooch, with a priceless equation of runs and time.

Richards, in his 121st Test and his 50th as captain, was leading West Indies for the last time. He was forced to forgo the services of Logie, who had a knee injury, and called in the Guyanese left-hander, Lambert, for his Test début. England opted for what was described as a high risk strategy. They dropped Hick, Lamb, Russell and Illingworth, and in addition to Smith, his finger injury now healed, they recalled Tufnell, Botham (for his 98th Test) and Stewart as a batsman-wicket-keeper. The selection of Stewart ahead of Russell was widely criticised, but ultimately was justified. Pringle's tonsillitis ruled him out of the match.

Gooch, winning the toss, decided to have first use of a pitch containing its usual generous bounce. This was exploited fully by West Indies' fast bowlers on the first afternoon, after Gooch and Morris had fought their way to 82 by lunch. No Law was broken by Ambrose, Patterson and Walsh, but as the bouncer became a regular weapon, the spirit of the game was sorely tested at times. And the attack had the desired effect; England lost three wickets for 8 runs in 21 deliveries, with Morris out one ball after a lifter from Ambrose had broken the chinstrap on his helmet. Atherton faced just four balls, but Ramprakash once more battled against the pace, only to fall, for the seventh time in the series, in the 20s. However, Smith, reaching 50 for the twentieth time in Tests, and Stewart saw their team to the close at 231 for four, and next day Smith's valiant sixth Test hundred, his second of the series, enabled England to reach 400 against West Indies for the first time in fifteen years. His square cut was again profitable, and he hit thirteen fours in almost six hours (257 balls) at the wicket.

There were important contributions, too, from Stewart, Botham and Lewis in the late middle order, with Botham dismissed in a bizarre fashion. Attempting to hook Ambrose, he over-balanced and dislodged a bail with his right thigh as he tried to straddle the stumps. Equally unusual was the pause in play late on the second day while stewards cleared away a mass of torn paper from the outfield, emanating from the tiresome Mexican wave. West Indies closed at a comfortable 90 for one, with Haynes and Richardson relieved to have survived a chance each.

The third day belonged to Tufnell, when Richards might have been expected to take command on his farewell stage. From 158 for three, West Indies declined rapidly to 176 all out as Tufnell spun the ball generously in a devastating spell of six for 4 in 33 deliveries either side of lunch. It has to be said, though, that a rash of reckless strokes contributed to this collapse, which began when Lambert miscued Tufnell's first ball of the day to cover. Marshall cut to slip, Richards, Ambrose and Walsh gave their wickets away in one over, and in Tufnell's next over, Botham dived for his third catch to dismiss Patterson. Richards had held himself back because of a headache. Haynes, who carried his bat for the second time in Test cricket, faced 198 balls in four and threequarter hours, and he batted eight minutes under three hours (114 balls) when West Indies followed on 243 behind. England collected three more wickets by the close.

There were no easy pickings for Tufnell on the fourth day, however. Twice Hooper struck him for six during a magnificent display of strokemaking which illuminated the first hour. Then Richards, given a standing ovation to the wicket, put on 97 for the fifth wicket with Richardson to put his side ahead for the first time in the game. Richards began needing 20 runs to guarantee an average of 50 in Tests, and he had gone well past that when he drove Lawrence to mid-on. He left the Test arena to rapturous applause, stopping on the way to raise his bat and maroon cap to both sides of the ground in gracious acknowledgement. Richardson finally reached his hundred, a dedicated effort, after six and a half hours, and West Indies led by 113, with four wickets in hand, on Sunday evening.

Marshall lost his middle stump to Defreitas's second ball on Monday, Ambrose was lbw off his fourth, and then Lawrence claimed five wickets in a Test innings for the first time when he removed Walsh and, finally, Richardson. Richardson had batted for just over seven and a half hours for his 121, in which time he faced 312 deliveries and hit a six and eleven fours. This left England to score 143 to level the series, with time no object. However, the West Indian fast bowlers backed Richards's pledge that England would have to fight for victory, and wickets fell too regularly for England's comfort. At 80 for four the cricket was tense, but Stewart's coolness and sure strokeplay saw England to the finishing line. With the scores level, Ramprakash was l. b. w. to Lambert's third ball in Test cricket, bringing in Botham to conclude the match with a little under two hours remaining.

Man of the Match: R. A. Smith. Attendance: 70,926; receipts £1,013,033.

Men of the Series: England - G. A. Gooch; West Indies - C. E. L. Ambrose.

Close of play: First day, England 231-4 (R. A. Smith 54*, A. J. Stewart 19*); Second day, West Indies 90-1 (D. L. Haynes 46*, R. B. Richardson 20*); Third day, West Indies 152-3 (R. B. Richardson 39*, C. L. Hooper 11*); Fourth Day, West Indies 356-6 (R. B. Richardson 108*, M. D. Marshall 17*).

© John Wisden & Co