Plunkett inches England closer to victory

Published: Monday, May 28, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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LEEDS, England (AFP):Liam Plunkett took a wicket as England moved one step closer to victory in the second Test against West Indies at Headingley here Monday.

After the whole of Sunday's play had been washed out, more rain meant only four overs were possible before lunch on the fourth day. But that was enough time for Plunkett to dismiss Chris Gayle and leave West Indies 31 for three at the break - still 393 runs shy of avoiding an innings defeat.

Devon Smith was four not out and Sylvester Joseph nought not out.

Umpires Rudi Koertzen of South Africa and Asad Rauf of Pakistan brought forward the lunch interval to 12:50pm local time (1150GMT) with a view to re-starting play at 1:30pm (1230GMT), provided there was no further rain.

West Indies resumed on 22 for two, following on and facing a loss that would see them go 1-0 down in the four-match series after the drawn opener at Lord's.

Their task of saving the game had been made harder by knowing that captain Ramnaresh Sarwan, who hadn't batted in the first innings after sustaining a potentially tour-threatening shoulder injury while fielding Friday, would only bat in the second innings in an emergency.

West Indies were already without senior batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul, not playing this match because of a knee injury.

Gayle resumed on nine not out with Smith yet to face after nightwatchman Daren Powell was out to the last ball of Saturday's play.

Plunkett opened the bowling with some wayward legside deliveries but did get Gayle playing through the slip cordon for a fortunate four.

Left-arm quick Ryan Sidebottom, who'd taken six wickets in the match so far, including four for 42 as West Indies collapsed to 146 all out in reply to England's imposing 570 for seven declared, saw his first ball Monday confidently cover-driven for four by Smith.

But Nottinghamshire seamer Sidebottom, in for the injured Matthew Hoggard and playing his second Test six years after his debut, was soon beating the bat in overcast, pace bowler friendly conditions, on his old home ground having taken both second innings wickets to fall so far.

Instead it was Plunkett, however, who took Monday's first wicket when he squared up Gayle and had the left-hander edging to wicket-keeper Matt Prior for 13, West Indies 30 for three.

Shortly afterwards rain, which had been falling steadily, stopped play.

England took the field without batsman Ian Bell, who was continuing to receive treatment to his lower back following a spasm he suffered on Saturday.

Their dominant position had been set up by Kevin Pietersen's Test best 226 and 103 from captain Michael Vaughan in his first Test after 18 months out with several injuries.

Before play began Monday both teams and the match officials observed a minute's silence in memory of International Cricket Council (ICC) president Percy Sonn, who died on Sunday, and wore black armbands as a mark of respect.

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