First Cornhill Test


Andrew Longmore

Toss: England.

Helped by a combination of bad light and rain - which accounted for more than a day's play - an anaesthetised pitch, and some excellent batting by Gooch, in both innings, and Gower, in the second, England ended their losing sequence of ten Tests against West Indies. But with Marshall exposing worrying frailties in England's batsmen, and Richards quickly re-establishing his dominance over their bowlers, it was an uneasy feeling of equality.

Both sides approached the match tentatively. England were desperate to throw off their inferiority complex at the start of a new series; West Indies had been unusually erratic in the first weeks of the tour, and Marshall, on whom so much rested, had not fully recovered from a side strain suffered in the recent series against Pakistan. Apart from Gower and Jarvis, who replaced Lynch and Small, England fielded the side which won the first two one-day internationals. Hemmings and Thomas were omitted from the squad selected. West Indies adopted their trusted formula, choosing four fast bowlers with Hooper as the emergency spinner.

Gatting's decision to bat first seemed completely justified when Gooch and Broad put on 125 for the first wicket, allowing England a glimpse of unexpected security on a pitch which, apart from some variable bounce, gave little help to the faster bowlers nor much to the strokemaker. England's openers adapted accordingly, working hard for every run, while the West Indians were so put out by the behaviour of the pitch that they resorted to Hooper's off-spin well before lunch. When Gooch reached 29, he became the sixteenth England batsman to score 4,000 Test runs. Otherwise, the morning passed with a comforting lack of incident for the disappointingly small crowd.

That changed quickly in mid-afternoon when Marshall, slowing his pace, gained just reward for a classic spell of medium-fast swing bowling. In seven overs, he took four for 14 and picked up a warning for running on the pitch. Gooch was the first to go, dragging an intended off-drive on to his stumps after a stay of 175 minutes which featured eight fours. Gatting soon followed, his weakness against the in-swinger ruthlessly exploited as he gave a simple catch to short leg, and in the last over before tea, Broad played on after 241 minutes of dogged concentration. Lamb was lbw to a wicked in-swinger two balls later. When Gower gave Ambrose his first wicket of the series, England's top five batsmen, with 300 caps between them, had gone in the space of 61 runs. Pringle and Downton steadied the innings for the day, but it took Ambrose and Marshall just thirteen overs to take the remaining five wickets for 25 runs the following morning.

Despite the collapse, England would still have been moderately pleased with their total on a pitch of increasingly uncertain bounce and movement, which the early West Indian batsmen found equally difficult to master. Greenidge was dropped at slip by Emburey off Jarvis before edging the same bowler to Downton five balls later, and Emburey quickly had Richardson caught at forward short leg. But an innings of calculated savagery by Richards changed the balance of the match and laid the foundation for a large West Indies total, built over three days between frequent interruptions for rain. Richards announced himself with four fours on the second evening; his real assault came on Saturday when he singled out Emburey for particular punishment, hitting one huge six over long on. Hooper, using his feet beautifully against Emburey, joined in the attack, and in 30 overs on Saturday West Indies made 138 for the loss of Haynes and Richards. Poor Emburey, having taken a wicket in his first over, conceded 62 runs off his first seven overs.

Hooper, classically, Marshall, gleefully - with three sixes of Emburey - and Ambrose, inelegantly, made sure that the captain's initiative was capitalised on as England plugged away with a lack of imagination and enthusiasm that at times bordered on the careless. Pringle and Jarvis kept their rhythm admirably, but on Monday it seemed from fairly early on that England had settled for a draw. Given their fragility in the first innings, this seemed a perilous course. However, it was aided by Richards, who delayed his declaration until after tea, leaving England with a day plus 31 overs to survive. They lost Broad before the close, but Gooch's solidity was reassuring and he batted 6 hours 50 minutes, facing 303 balls and hitting fifteen fours, Gatting stayed with him for more than two hours, and then Gower joined him in a three-hour partnership of 161 for the third wicket. Marshall left the field with a recurrence of his side injury early in the afternoon, and long before the end Richards had accepted the draw. Although avoiding defeat, England had now gone a record fourteen Tests without a win since beating Australia at Melbourne in December 1986. Their previous sequence of thirteen had run from January 1984 to December 1984.

Man of the Match: M. D. Marshall. Attendance: 24,608; receipts: £285,005.

Close of play: First day, England 220-5 (D. R. Pringle 39*, P. R. Downton 9*); Second day, West Indies 126-2 (D. L. Haynes 53*, I. V. A. Richards 22*); Third day, West Indies 264-4 (C. L. Hooper 47*, A. L. Logie 18*); Fourth day, England 67-1 (G. A. Gooch 38*, M. W. Gatting 8*).

© John Wisden & Co