Fourth Cornhill Test

ENGLAND v WEST INDIES 1991

Ted Corbett

Toss: West Indies.

It could be argued that this match, which gave West Indies a 2-1 lead in the series with one Test to go, was lost by England when their selection committee chose not to include Botham, even though his fitness was no longer in doubt and the previous Test, at Trent Bridge, had cried out for the inspiration of his joie de vivre. The Edgbaston pitch, which favoured seam throughout, would have been better suited to Botham's medium-pace swing than to his county colleague, Illingworth, a lesson which was driven home with brutal force on the fourth afternoon, when Richards ended the match with a straight six off the Worcestershire left-arm spinner.

Indeed, the first act of the game, after the start had been delayed 75 minutes by overnight rain, made the point clear. Richards won the toss and, after his customary trip back to the dressing-room for advice, asked England to bat. The opening ball from Ambrose, not one to waste time in looseners, seamed and rose a minimum distance outside off stump. Gooch dabbed at it, but Hooper at second slip, as astonished as the batsman, dropped a regulation catch in front of his face. From that moment, England's supporters had few moments of ease. Morris, in his first Test, having come in for the injured Smith, was caught for 3. And although Atherton batted stubbornly for an hour, England were 88 for three when Gooch, the only batsman to pass 30, was comprehensively bowled by Marshall. Hick held out for two and a half hours (104 balls) while making 19, and Ramprakash served up elegant defence for 110 minutes in accumulating 29. But the innings was extended into the second morning, and then by just eight minutes, only because 21 overs were lost to bad light and rain.

The West Indies openers set about building a winning total in their own way. Simmons hit five fours in a first-wicket stand of 52, and Haynes lingered two and a half hours in making 32. But the innings belonged to Richardson, whose 104, from 229 balls with thirteen fours, was his thirteenth century in Tests. Typically, he began hesitantly, for the untrustworthy pitch precluded the kind of strokes with which he bewildered the Australians four months earlier in Georgetown. Still, his defence throughout four and a half hours mocked those who thought he would never succeed in England, and his Man of the Match award was entirely justified.

His rival for that prize was England's Guyanan-born all-rounder, Lewis, who recorded his best performances in Tests with bat and ball. Recalled after satisfying the selectors that his pre-Test giddiness was no longer a problem, he clearly revelled in the conditions and the responsibility of the new ball. He had Logie caught second ball on the third day and Richardson 1 run later, to begin a haul of five for 12 in 62 balls. From 253 for four overnight, West Indies were all out for 292. By the close of play, however, England were just 52 runs ahead with eight wickets down, and the question was not who would win but when West Indies would do it.

This time England's batting had been undermined by Patterson, who had missed the previous two Tests with a calf injury. Once he seemed to be just a big, strong fast bowler, with a streak of venom; the added benefit of bowling at the stumps and, mostly, on a length had made him a formidable performer. Straightness removed Morris lbw, lift had Atherton caught, and a superb in-swinger bowled Gooch after two and a half hours of defiance. England were 5 for three when Hick played round a ball from Ambrose that cut in, and although Lamb and Ramprakash each batted an hour and threequarters to reach 25 apiece, Sunday dawned with the prospect of play ending by lunch, a dismal outlook for a large crowd relishing the sunshine.

Instead, a major stand developed between Pringle and Lewis. Pringle dropped anchor - for five hours in total - but Lewis, giving further proof of his maturity, struck boldly to reach his first Test fifty, with ten fours in all, before he was smartly caught in the covers for 65. His disappointment was obvious as he walked back to the dressing-room, but for the first time it was clear that this was an all-rounder who demanded an England place. By the time Pringle was out to a diving catch at mid-wicket by the speedy Logie, England had made 255, a lead of 151.

After the exhilaration of the morning's play, there was chatter of a repeat of the Botham miracle at Edgbaston ten years earlier against Australia. When Simmons, Haynes and Richardson were gone for 24, all to Defreitas, the chatter was turning to a roar. But this time there was no Botham and no miracle. Hooper, with elegance, and Richards, with jaw-jutting determination and growing ferocity, put together 133 at a run a minute to ensure that Richards would end his career as West Indies' captain without losing a series. He was carried from the field on the shoulders of his team, and later confessed to a few tears. It had also been a noteworthy match for Dujon; when he caught Ramprakash in the second innings, he passed A. P. E. Knott's tally of 269 Test victims, and only R. W. Marsh, with 355, stood ahead.

Man of the Match: R. B. Richardson. Attendance: 59,917; receipts £852,868.

Close of play: First day, England 184-9 ( P. A. J. DeFreitas 7*, R. K. Illingworth 0*); Second day, West Indies 253-4 ( R. B. Richardson 103*, A. L. Logie 24*); Third day, England 156-8 ( D. R. Pringle 26*, C. C. Lewis 7*).

© John Wisden & Co
 
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