Second Test Match

West Indies v England

In the end this became the great escape story -- a match apparently lost by England but finally saved by Amiss who batted for the last nine and a half hours and scored 262 not out.

Yet the achievement of Amiss, strongly and bravely supported by the tail, tended to hide the fact that this was another Test match in which England were put in jeopardy by the failure of the men in the first half of the batting order.

When Denness won the toss on a pitch without pace or vice he must have been hoping for a score of around five hundred. Instead, before the first day was out, England had lost five wickets for 224 and were already committed to a rearguard action.

It was a day on which the bad ball became deadly. Amiss, Hayes and Greig all hit catches off long hops from slow bowlers. Jameson went a long way down the pitch to Gibbs, hit his own ankle instead of the ball and was stumped, while Boycott, hampered for much of his innings by a pulled leg muscle, was splendidly caught by Kanhai, rolling over at short mid-off, when driving at Sobers.

By the end of that opening day it was almost certain that the West Indies could not lose the match. Yet in the second half of the England innings they found resistance stiffer. Admittedly Denness, who remained the last hope but Underwood, Knott and Pocock played with such determination that the last three wickets put on 67.

Even so, 353 was a moderate score which looked somewhat less than that by the time Rowe and Fredericks had scored 206 for the first West Indies wicket. Fredericks, a left hander who played well within limitations set by himself, was the artisan of the partnership; Rowe, who at that point had scored all his ten first-class centuries before his own Jamaican crowd, was the artist.

His footwork and his balance were superb. Yet from that point of depression England's bowlers, without much success to urge them on, produced a dogged defiance that actually pinned Kallicharran, Lloyd and Sobers to defence.

It was a fine performance, valuable in its context, for it erased the fear of a huge West Indian score made quickly, which would in turn have lengthened the time England would have had to survive in the second innings.

By the start of the fourth day, the West Indies were pressed into making up time. The outcome was explosive. In 58 balls Julien hit 66, adding 112 with Sobers in seventy-five minutes.

Sobers, who for once in his life played the role of junior partner to whoever was at the crease with him, scored 57 and at lunch West Indies, who had added 149 in two hours off only 30 overs, declared at 583 for nine. England's bowling, so efficient the evening before, had suddenly been made to look defenceless and bewildered.

By the end of that remarkable fourth day it seemed unlikely that England could survive. With ten hours left they could only retreat and the chances of their doing so successfully were reduced dramatically when Boyce had Boycott caught off a bouncer that brushed his glove in the third over.

By the time the score was 217 -- West Indies had led by 230 -- five wickets had gone and Amiss had only Knott and the tailenders left for company. Among those who had fallen was Hayes, thrown out by Lloyd from cover when Amiss unaccountably challenged the man who is probably the best cover point in the world.

He did the same thing later with the result that Knott also was run out (each time Lloyd scored a direct hit on the stumps). Those two errors made it even more imperative that Amiss should stay and he responded magnificently.

Immediately at the start of the fifth day he had a piece of luck which almost certainly cost West Indies the match. He turned the third ball of the day firmly but straight into the hands of Sobers at backward short leg. It fell out again.

Thenceforth, England played cricket of real courage as pressure built up both on the field and in the crowd. Underwood, who had been sent in as nightwatchman, did as much as anybody to inspire it, batting on another seventy-five minutes into the last day and bravely fending off bouncers, particularly from Boyce, that became too numerous to be acceptable.

Again, when Knott was quickly dismissed it seemed that England, 41 ahead with three wickets left, were doomed. Then Old, not the best player of fast bowling, withstood another barrage of bouncers, to use up another hundred minutes. He and Amiss put on 72 for the eighth wicket.

Yet, such was the delicate balance of time and runs that it was not until after tea that England were finally out of danger. By then Pocock had stayed with Amiss for eighty-five minutes scoring four runs. In the end England made 432 for nine, at which point Amiss, who had never before in his first class career scored a double century, led them off the field for the last time. His was the hero's role in a classic escape.

The receipts, £36,000, were a record for Jamaica.

© John Wisden & Co