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Despite Flintoff's century England follows on

By Ted Corbett

ST. JOHN'S, APRIL 14. The obvious tactic of enforcing the follow-on appeared to have backfired on Brian Lara as the West Indies struggled to take England wickets in the second innings at the Recreation Ground, Antigua on Tuesday. Once again, mysteriously, Lara declined to set all-out attacking fields and kept Pedro Collins, his most successful bowler in the first innings, out of the attack in the hope that his back spasms have cleared for a final fling.

In fact Lara, whose captaincy has as many critics as admirers in the Caribbean, used long spells of spin from such part-timers as Chris Gayle, Ricardo Powell and Ryan Hinds. Perhaps, after three successive defeats at the start of the series, he is content to settle for a draw and so avoid a clean sweep although with 90 overs remaining in which to take ten wickets he still has time on his side.

England has a new sort of hero, however. Andrew Flintoff, putting his Freddie Flinstone instincts to one side, spent five hours trying to prevent an England defeat. His third Test century, spread

across 209 balls, bore only the occasional reminder of Flintoff's wish to hit as many balls as possible into the nearby Caribbean but as an attempt to bat two days to save the fourth Test it was admirable.

He allowed himself one extravagant over when West Indies took the new ball. Facing Fidel Edwards from the pavilion end Flintoff hit a six, two fours and a two to make his score 92. His caution was necessary in the circumstances created by Brian Lara's 400 and their score of 751 but

when England was all out for 285 and forced to follow on it seemed that nothing except a tropical storm like the one on the first day could save England.

Flintoff needed this innings almost as much as England. His reputation in 33 Tests has been that of a village blacksmith batsman, able to smash the ball around the park but unable to exercise judgement about the right ball or the right moment for his big shots. It was an imperfect innings since he was dropped three times but it is a step in the right direction. When he was out on 95 attempting to repeat a six hit over mid-wicket at the Oval against South Africa last summer umpire

Venkat reprimanded him. "Don't you value a Test century?" Venkat asked. It may be the reason his centuries in New Zealand and against South Africa at Lord's are his only memorable worthwhile Test innings.

Perhaps this century will make him reassess his game plan. His overnight stand with Geraint Jones had added 84 when Jones was bowled by an Edwards yorker but not before he had shown the selectors who preferred him to Chris Read that they knew their business.

Gareth Batty, Matthew Hoggard, Simon Jones and Steve Harmison helped him add another 103 to show that there is spirit and application in this England side for all the hammering it received on the first three days.

The second innings belong to the opening pair of Michael Vaughan, the England captain, and Marcus Trescothick, neither of whom have had consistent success in the West Indies. Against young bowlers like Tino Best, who had put a lot of emotional energy into his first innings as well as a good many stares at Flintoff, and Fidel Edwards, whose celebrations must drain him, they used their professional know-how to put on their first century opening stand of the series and were never in trouble although Trescothick should have been given out to a thick edge to the keeper.

Both of them produced trademark shots as their confidence grew. Trescothick who used to be famous for his straight drives on either side of the wicket played the first on-drive in many Tests; Vaughan tried a hook or two and then the swivelling pull that earned him so many runs in that year of seven Test centuries. Of course he also unleashed a cover drive or three to remind old timers here of the great Len Hutton in his pomp against West Indies in 1954.

It is good that Vaughan, who will be hailed as one of the greats shortly, showed these enthusiastic cricket fans his strengths, his fine footwork and his smooth driving.

If the West Indies game is to revive as Lara insists it will some of the inspiration must come from these England stars: Harmison, the most improved bowler in the side, Flintoff who showed what a disciplined approach can achieve and Vaughan, a master at the crease and a tougher captain than his soft voice and polite manners suggest.

Unbeaten century by Vaughan

St. John's April 14. England was 241 for one in its second innings at lunch on the final day of the fourth Test against West Indies here on Wednesday. Vaughan with 119 and Butcher with 13 were at the crease. Trescothick made 88.

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