Fourth Test


Toss: West Indies.

Cricket's aptitude for producing the inexplicable has seldom been so convincingly demonstrated. England arrived at the supposedly impregnable bastion of West Indian cricket with their form and confidence rock-bottom. Even team manager Keith Fletcher admitted a draw would have been been considered a triumph: West Indies had won their last 12 Tests on the ground. To win, and win handsomely, becoming the first visiting Test team to succeed at Bridgetown since R. E. S. Wyatt's England team 59 years earlier, and only the second ever, beggared belief. And yet it was no fluke. England dictated the game and won on merit, eight minutes after the scheduled tea interval on the final day. Each of the five days had attracted capacity crowds, swelled by about 6,000 holidaying England supporters, creating a unique and strangely bipartisan atmosphere for a Caribbean Test.

West Indies fielded the same team who won the Georgetown and Port-of-Spain Tests, but England substituted Tufnell for Salisbury. Richardson again won the toss and followed Barbados tradition, if not logic, by bowling first. The pitch was truer and faster than any encountered thus far and Atherton and Stewart profited with a first-wicket stand of 171, one short of the England record on the ground. The scoring-rate was brisk and their command such that it came as a surprise when Atherton fell for 85. Stewart proceeded to a chanceless century, on his 31st birthday, in 293 minutes, but the loss of four wickets in the final session, prolonged by the slow over-rate until cut off by bad light, undermined England's control.

It seemed the familiar pattern had been restored on the second day, when four wickets from Ambrose, at a personal cost of 24, restricted the total to 355. But the West Indian reply was quickly in trouble, despite Haynes surviving a controversial run-out appeal when he eased up, believing his shot had crossed the boundary. Haynes later retired hurt, struck on the finger by Lewis, initiating a disastrous period for West Indies. In his eighth over with the new ball, Fraser dismissed Richardson and Arthurton and, after Lara had seen a lavish drive superbly caught at cover by the substitute, Hussain, he returned for a crucial evening spell which brought him four for one in 17 balls. It was easily his most effective and impressive bowling since his prolonged pelvic injury and, with Tufnell containing skilfully at the other end, West Indies were 205 for eight when Ambrose became a seventh victim for Fraser on the third morning. Chanderpaul's remarkable temperament was again in evidence as he batted five hours in company with the tail, who eventually carried the side past 300. The last three wickets added 170 but Fraser still achieved figures of eight for 75, the best by an Englishman against West Indies, and the best for England since Bob Willis took eight for 43 against Australia at Headingley in 1981.

The lead of 51 was precarious, however, when Walsh quickly dismissed Atherton and Ramprakash. With Smith failing once more, England were tottering until Hick joined Stewart and, with the aid of generous supply of no-balls, added 92 before the close of the third day - delayed, like the previous two, by a desultory over-rate which was to produce a heavy fine for the West Indians. The first session of the fourth day was a critical one. Having survived it for the loss of one more wicket - Hick - they were well-placed. Stewart, who scored only 13 in the two hours to lunch, then advanced rapidly to his second century of the match, the first England player to achieve the feat against West Indies. If his second innings lacked the fluency of his first, it surpassed it for application; he had been batting almost eight hours when he played on, wearily, for the second time in the game. His stand of 150 with Thorpe was a record for England's fifth wicket against West Indies.

Thorpe's breezy 84, made in 188 minutes, permitted Atherton the unaccustomed luxury of a declaration and West Indies, set an improbable 446, 40 more than had ever been made to win a Test, were 47 for two at the close, the retirement of Richardson with a hamstring strain adding to their woes. If Russell had not missed a stumping with Lara on strike, England might have thought they were nearly home; as it was, they had to wait 75 minutes on the fifth morning before, crucially, he mishooked Caddick to mid-on where Tufnell took an impressive catch. With Haynes batting down the order with his damaged finger, the rest was not far short of a procession. Last man Walsh hit Tufnell for three defiant sixes in an over, but two balls later Ambrose was bowled and angrily swatted down his stumps, an act which cost him a £1,000 fine from the referee. This passed unnoticed by most of the England supporters, who were already on the field celebrating.

Man of the Match: A. J. Stewart.

Close of play: First day, England 299-5 (G. A. Hick 26*, R. C. Russell 3*); Second day, West Indies 188-7 (S. Chanderpaul 31*, C. E. L. Ambrose 35*), Third day, England 171-3 (A. J. Stewart 62*, G. A. Hick 52*); Fourth day, West Indies 47-2 (B. C. Lara 10*, K. L. T. Arthurton 0*).

© John Wisden & Co