Toss: West Indies. Test debuts: N. V. Knight, M. Watkinson.

To the West Indians, the Fourth Test was a disappointment. To England, however, it was an occasion to celebrate; and to cricket fans of any nationality - those who love the game for the game's sake - it was a match to remember. England won by six wickets in four days and levelled the series at 2-2, to set up a potentially glorious finish.

But the Test was set apart from those that had preceded it and transformed into an unforgettable experience, firstly by the way England recovered from their mauling at Edgbaston and then by the magnificent performances of Dominic Cork and Brian Lara. The England pace bowler continued his astonishing entry to Test cricket with a devastating hat-trick and the West Indian batting ace displayed his class with a solid 87 followed by a superb 145.

Battered and bruised in Birmingham, England made six changes, mostly because of injuries; Hick was left out by choice. Stewart's opening role was taken over by Nick Knight of Warwickshire while Russell returned to take the gloves. Crawley and White were recalled and there were two off-spinners, the 42-year-old Emburey, selected for his 64th Test, and Mike Watkinson, playing his first, on home ground, a few days before his 34th birthday. West Indies fielded the same high-riding eleven who had won at Leeds and Birmingham, and many expected them to take a stranglehold on the series.

To the surprise of their most ardent supporters, however, England came out like tigers. By the end of the first day of a Test bathed in sunshine - tea was taken 15 minutes early because the light off a glass roof was dazzling the batsmen - they had routed West Indies for 216. Only Lara passed 24 as Fraser and Cork led the assault with some lively, accurate and testing seam bowling, and earned four wickets each, backed up by fielders who caught almost everything in sight. Resuming next morning on 65 for two, England batted with a beautifully effective mixture of resolve and panache. Thorpe, who just missed the distinction of scoring the first century of the series when he was caught behind for 94, was the star as they eased to 437, their best against West Indies at Old Trafford, and ample reflection of their fighting spirit. The West Indian attack bowled far too short throughout the match - so short in fact that it annoyed even their own supporters - and umpire Bird warned Walsh after Atherton was hit over the heart. But the England batsmen stood their ground and then reeled off some wonderful strokes, culminating in an undefeated 56 from Cork. Further evidence that Cork leads a charmed life occurred early on Saturday when his foot dislodged a bail as he set off for an all-run four; none of the fielders noticed and he replaced the bail himself on his return. A total of 64 extras, 34 from no-balls, was equal to the fourth-highest in a Test innings.

Trailing by 221, West Indies had pulled back to 159 for three by the fourth morning. With the enigmatic Hooper, pushed down the order after chipping a finger, the only specialist bat to come, their fate depended heavily on their most gifted batsman, Lara, and their most experienced, Richardson. When Richardson stroked the third ball of the morning confidently to long leg for a single and Lara steered the fourth - a no-ball - comfortably past gully for another, the West Indians appeared ready for the fight. But in one of the most stunning starts to a day's play in any Test match, Cork knocked them flat; the once unbeatable world champions dropped from 161 for three to 161 for six in three balls.

Bowling from the Stretford End, Cork picked off Richardson, Murray and Hooper to become only the eighth England bowler to do the hat-trick - the first since Peter Loader surprised West Indies at Headingley in 1957 - and, following T. J. Matthews's double hat-trick for Australia against South Africa in 1912, only the second bowler to achieve it in an Old Trafford Test. Richardson was bowled, the ball bouncing off his pads, on to the bat and then on to the stumps as he attempted to pull his bat away; Murray was leg before, going inside and playing across the line of the ball; and Hooper was also lbw, beaten for pace and struck on the pad as he attempted to play forward.

With the West Indian batting in ruins and England scenting an innings win, Lara, then 60, made a brilliant effort to rescue his team, parading his repertoire of strokes as he went for the bowling in a bold and beautiful counter-attack. He reached his first first-class hundred since the Second Test against New Zealand, in February, in 151 balls, and went on to 145 from 216, with 16 fours. The odds were always against even his amazing talent, however. When he went, caught by Knight at square leg off the persistent Fraser, after scoring 85 of the last 122 runs, only the formalities were left - or so it seemed.

Left to score only 94 to win, with Atherton stroking the ball effortlessly, England appeared to be heading for an emphatic victory. But after Atherton was carelessly run out with the score on 39, Bishop and Benjamin pulled the throttle. In a last kick, they removed Knight, Thorpe and White. England were 48 for four, effectively five, as a short-pitched ball from Bishop had fractured Smith's cheekbone and sent him off to hospital. It was left to Crawley and gutsy Russell to inch their way to victory.

Invasions by streakers reached epidemic proportions during this Test. They caused seven interruptions, five on Saturday afternoon, though not all managed to finish removing their underwear before being tackled and hauled off the field by members of Sale Rugby Club, hired as a precaution. Lancashire's chief executive, John Bower, demanded afterwards that Parliament should declare such disruptions a criminal offence.

Man of the Match: D. G. Cork. Attendance: 76,464; receipts £1,373,092.

Close of play: First day, England 65-2 (M. A. Atherton 15*); Second day, England 347-7 (M. Watkinson 25*, D. G. Cork 3*); Third day, West Indies 159-3 (B. C. Lara 59*, R. B. Richardson 21*).