Fortune always favours the brave

Orin Davidson's
Eye On Sport
Stabroek News
July 2, 2000

England could not have hoped for a better gift to celebrate the 100th Test match at their most famous ground yesterday.

Compliments of gross inept batting and ultra conservative captaincy by Jimmy Adams, England were gifted a remarkable victory which could not have been imagined one and a half days before it was realised.

A combination of recklessness, inspired bowling and a few umpiring mistakes led to West Indies being routed for their lowest ever score of 54 against England. Considering that the previous lowest was made more than 40 years ago, and West Indies were in danger of going down for the record low yesterday, one must conclude that our batting woes are far from finished.

Friday's capitulation must rank among the worst because it was delivered by England, one of the weakest teams in the world, and one which West Indies has whitewashed 5-0 twice and three-nilled four times.

Although it was a mere three runs more than the record low of 51, it must be stressed that it was Australia, the team considered the best in the world and who are on a record equaling 11 successive test-match victory streak currently, which handed West Indies the notorious statistic.

Sherwin Campbell's wild topedged drive which eventually ended in the grasp of Darren Gough's hands at short third man was indicative of careless complacency which set the tone for England's great comeback.

Because he is the form batsman on the tour, Campbell would have been better advised against being overly extravagant that early in the innings and lead the way instead in consolidating West Indies' huge 133-run lead.

It was no looking back thereafter for Alec Stewart's men as the rest of the batting collapsed in an embarrassing heap.

Credit must be given to Andy Caddick and Gough for consistently delivering a lengthy deluge of accurate short pitched bodyline deliveries which exposed our weakness to that mode of attack, of the very type which tormented the world in the heyday of Clive Lloyd's four pronged pace attack.

None more than double world record holder Brian Lara was rattled to the extent that he edged a catch to a straightforward ball after being softened up from the word go.

Of course Caddick and company benefited from at least two appalling umpiring decisions which accounted for Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Wavell Hinds. But such is life in cricket these days, you're lucky today and unlucky tomorrow.

Even though England were set the seemingly moderate target of 188, in reality it should have been an unsurmountable score for England, given the strength of West Indies' bowling attack and the vulnerability of the opposition's batting which had not topped 200 runs in each of the previous three innings in the series.

In falling short by two wickets, West Indies proved that their bowlers were up to the task, but for the want of more bold captaincy by Adams, England were let off the hook.

West Indies needed to attack England consistently throughout the innings with a full complement of slips and gully, forming a cordon behind the batsmen to support the fast bowlers, with a third man in defence. That was not the case throughout yesterday and Adams was left to rue vacating third slip where catches flew through and allowed vital singles to be scored on the on-side because fielders were posted on the boundary.

It made little sense trying to defend 188 runs with three days for England to score them. The pressure of consistently attacking batsmen lacking confidence, had to have paid off especially with bowlers the calibre of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose.

In banishing Reon King from the attack after a single eight-over spell, the captain lapsed. Even though he was cautioned for running on the pitch with his follow-through and could have been debarred from the attack with a further infringement, it was a gamble worth taking to re-introduce King.

For one factor, King is a natural wickettaker and a bowler who takes wickets even when he is not 100 percent at his best. He is also more consistent with wickets than Franklyn Rose whose senseless bouncers and wasteful no balls and a wide provided England with vital runs in the closing stages.

In tight situations as was the case yesterday, it is often the captaincy which makes the difference between winning and losing.

Fortune always favours the brave.

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