Second Cornhill Test

England v West Indies 2000

Derek Pringle

Toss: England. Test debut: M. J. Hoggard.

The 100th Test match played at Lord's also proved to be one of the most exciting, with England winning a low-scoring encounter by two wickets to level the series. Many talk about the Lord's Test of 1963 as being the apogee between these two sides: for sheer drama and sustained excitement, this one may have usurped it.

The uncertainty was contagious and, right up until Cork struck the winning boundary just after 7 p.m. on Saturday, it was a match that defied prediction. Momentum in Test cricket is usually a gradual, shifting force, but here it changed hands quicker than a spare ticket among the touts, who, sensing something special, thronged the pavements surrounding the ground. Whether or not the innovation of live music during the lunch break played a part - on the first day it was Third World and the Jools Holland Big Band - business was brisk. On Friday, when 21 wickets fell in 75 overs, including West Indies' second innings for just 54, value for money was given ten times over. In fact, the day saw at least one ball of all four innings, an instance unique in more than 1,500 Tests.

After losing heavily at Edgbaston, England turned up at Lord's - not somewhere recently associated with home victories - without the services of their captain, Hussain, who had cracked a thumb playing for Essex the previous weekend. It created an irony in which English cricket seems to specialise: Stewart, almost a year to the day after being sacked as captain, was once more asked to lead the side. In the event, it proved something of a masterstroke: Stewart's terse dressing-room speech - following England's first-innings collapse - was later cited as a contributory factor to West Indies' capitulation immediately afterwards. It was probably not planned that way. Under leaden skies, Stewart won the toss and asked West Indies to bat - something no England captain had done in a home Test. No doubt expecting swing, the England bowlers found little movement. Caddick, so lethal at Lord's in the Test against Zimbabwe six weeks earlier, was insipid, and his opening spell simply fed Campbell's two favourite shots: the cut and the square drive. Together, he and his less fluent partner, Griffith, batted through the morning session. They had put on 80 when Griffith, coming back for a risky second run, was run out by Caddick's accurate throw from long leg.

The breach, two balls after lunch, might have spared Stewart a few blushes, but Hinds soon revealed his talent with a spree of three off-side boundaries in one over from White. At tea, West Indies were 170 for two and, with Lara at the crease, England's prospects were not good. But a wild swish from him and an unfortunate umpiring decision against Hinds suddenly saw Gough and Cork - in his first Test for more than 18 months and now with his 100th Test victim - back among the wickets. West Indies closed on 267 for nine. Next morning, Caddick removed Walsh first ball, his only wicket of the innings. It was a harbinger of the chaos to come, for in their opening two overs England lost both Ramprakash and Atherton to poor shots. Once Ambrose, whose 150th wicket against England accounted for Vaughan, had settled, it became obvious that the pitch had more pace, bounce and movement than the previous day. Only a brief cameo by Hick, who took four fours off Rose's first over, and two gritty efforts by Stewart and White prevented complete humiliation. West Indies' heroes, inevitably, were Ambrose and Walsh, who both finished with four wickets to give them a lead of 133. Victory, if not as familiar to this as to past sides, was recognisably close at hand.

At this point, as the British public prepared their "here we go again" routine, Stewart read his team the riot act. Their response was emphatic, bold and, given the evidence of the first day, entirely unexpected. It also required some early fortune to start the process, which happened in the fourth over when Campbell was caught, cutting Caddick to third man.

The wicket turned Caddick, with his curious tendency to be more effective in the second innings, into an assassin. Eschewing the theory that West Indies batsmen are vulnerable to the ball of full length, he banged it in short and literally went for the jugular. Less familiar with throat balls than their predecessors - most Caribbean pitches have become slow, with low bounce - they fell in rapid succession, three to catches by Ramprakash at short leg. Even Lara, failing for the second time in the match, had no riposte, and only Jacobs, with a couple of fortuitous boundaries, made double figures. West Indies' 54 was their third-lowest total, their lowest-ever against England. Just over two hours of incredible drama had transformed a match with only one conceivable outcome into an endgame where both teams had a chance of victory.

Chasing 188 did not sound much, but on a bouncy seaming pitch, against two of the world's best new-ball bowlers, the task was stern. If most realists made West Indies favourites, they hadn't reckoned on Atherton and his heir apparent, Vaughan (playing only because of Hussain's injury). Coming together in the sixth over, after Ramprakash had played on to Walsh, they added 92 painstaking runs, each one cheered to the echo by a full house now reaching the point of emotional saturation - itself a rarity at Lord's.

Taking 29 balls to get off the mark - two more than his partner - Vaughan showed will-power to match that of Atherton, who simply relishes such situations. Perhaps most impressive, particularly with Ambrose beating the bat time and again, was the way neither became frustrated enough to abandon their game plan. With the job only half done, both fell in the forties to Walsh, who took the first six wickets to fall and improved his best figures against England for the second Test running, completing ten in the match for the first time against them. At 140 for six the pendulum, having creaked England's way, was back in West Indies' territory. When Knight, nursing a cracked finger, fell to Rose for a two that had spanned a courageous hour, their second victory looked assured.

However, Cork, dripping adrenalin and with a decisive glint in his eye, had entered the fray at the fall of the sixth wicket. Unfazed by the tension, he set about getting the runs. A lofted drive for four off the tiring Walsh, a pull for six off Rose and sundry stolen singles were all executed with his usual sense of theatre. As Gough kept him company with an admirably straight bat, Cork chipped away at both the total and the heartstrings of the public. Only when he had forced Walsh through the covers for the winning runs was the tension finally released, amid euphoria and ecstasy.

© John Wisden & Co