Toss: England. Test debuts: D. G. Cork; O. D. Gibson.

A match of startling fluctuations and compelling cricket was finally settled by a historic bowling performance. Dominic Cork, the 23-year-old Derbyshire bowler, returned an analysis of seven for 43, the best by an England player on Test debut and fifth on the list for any country. England levelled the series with the sort of aggression, determination and plain good sense that were so woefully lacking in the First Test. For West Indies, it was their third defeat in six Tests - a sequence of failure unknown during their two decades of world dominance - and their first at Lord's since 1957.

The match began with an undercurrent of disharmony between Ray Illingworth, England's overlord, and Mike Atherton, his captain. The full selection panel decided at its regular Saturday meeting that Steve Rhodes would keep wicket, Stewart return to his favoured place at the head of the order and Smith bat at No. 5 after opening at Headingley. Then, on the eve of the match, Illingworth unilaterally overturned this central plank of team strategy and inflicted on Atherton a line-up he strongly opposed. To cram in five specialist bowlers, Illingworth coerced Stewart into the all-rounder's role of wicket-keeper/opening batsman, with Smith on standby to go in first if Stewart was too tired after a stint in the field. Rhodes was omitted from the 13, as was Defreitas. It was an unprecedented display of autocracy by Illingworth and the manner in which he did it outraged many. Yet he was appointed to make such decisions and his vindication came with victory - which also, as if by magic, brought public unity with Atherton.

The game's balance of power shifted so frequently that all three results were quoted by bookmakers at 4 to 1 or longer at various times. England were around 70 runs short of par in their first innings. A fourth-wicket stand of 111 between Thorpe, who completed his ninth half-century in his last nine Tests, and Smith sustained them, although both were dropped by Richardson early on. Cork, who cut his first ball in Test cricket for four, and Martin added 50 for the eighth wicket, but too many batsmen surrendered to ill-disciplined shots. West Indies were restricted to a first-innings lead of 41, however. Fraser, the foot-slogging yeoman omitted from the defeat at Headingley, took his 100th Test wicket when Lara was lbw, added four more and bowled with his customary control and loathing for conceding runs. Several West Indian batsmen became established, without going on to play a substantial innings. The top scorer was Arthurton, with 75; he was last out to a thrilling, acrobatic catch by Gough on the long-leg boundary, giving Fraser his fifth wicket.

After the second day, West Indies coach Andy Roberts claimed the pitch had been deliberately under-prepared in England's favour, and was later reprimanded for his comments by match referee John Reid. In the event, the parched and cracked surface became easier and offered less sideways movement as the match progressed.

Stewart struck a flurry of early boundaries in the second innings but, at 52 for two, only 11 ahead, with Thorpe on his way to hospital, England were long shots. Yet they recovered to a second-innings total of 336, which became the bedrock of victory. Thorpe had been struck on the helmet by his first ball, another of Walsh's unintentional slow beamers. Several England batsmen complained that the tall West Indian fast bowlers' arms emerged from the dark of the trees above the sightscreen at the Nursery End, and Thorpe did not see the ball as it hurtled towards his head. Groggy, he was treated for five minutes on the pitch and spent a night under observation in St Mary's, Paddington. Hick and Smith, though, added 98 and Thorpe, proving that he numbers courage among his qualities, returned the following day after Ramprakash completed a pair. His partnership of 85 with Smith took England towards a position from which they could sense victory. Before the game, Smith admitted failure could end his Test career. But he was the hustling, hyper, bobbing and weaving embodiment of raw desire. He scored just 29 in each of the first two sessions of the fourth day, but he was damned if he was getting out. Eventually, after six hours, Ambrose nipped one back. Like every other key moment, it was replayed on the giant screen perched above the Edrich Stand and in use for the first time at Lord's.

Requiring 296 to win, West Indies lost Hooper early, but Lara tore into the bowling. He played and missed and struck boundaries in equal quantity as he raced to 38 not out, with eight fours, from 44 balls on the fourth evening. The destiny of the match rested in his hands of genius. But, after two more fours the next day, he was superbly caught by Stewart, plunging to his left, off Gough. This was the crucial dismissal of the game. Campbell hung on for over five hours, until he was eighth out for 93, but no other batsmen passed 14. Most of them fell to Cork, from the Nursery End, bowling wicket-to-wicket with enough out-swing to cause problems. His virtues were old-fashioned - line, length and movement - coupled with a fierce and demonstrable will. His final analysis was three runs better than that of John Lever, with seven for 46 on his debut against India at Delhi in 1976-77; J. J. Ferris took seven for 37 against South Africa, at Cape Town in 1891-92, but he had already played Test cricket for Australia.

The crowd swelled to more than 10,000 on the final afternoon after four full houses. They saw a classic Test, which England won by playing resourceful, brick-by-brick cricket over five days.

Man of the Match: D. G. Cork. Attendance: 111,938; receipts £2,412,793.

Close of play: First day, England 255-8 (P. J. Martin 22*); Second day, West Indies 209-6 (K. L. T. Arthurton 14*, O. D. Gibson 12*); Third day, England 155-3 (R. A. Smith 31*, M. R. Ramprakash 0*); Fourth day, West Indies 68-1 (S. L. Campbell 14*, B. C. Lara 38*).