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The Electronic Telegraph Tetley's Challenge Series: Worcestershire v Indians
Peter Deeley - 8-10 May 1996

Day 1: Rathore puts Indian threat into focus

First day of three: Indians (349-5 dec) lead Worcs (18-0) by 331 runs

David Lloyd's 'spy' camera was in action for the first time at New Road yesterday and when the video film is shown to England's bowlers before the international campaign starts the message will not be a comforting one.

India have a strong batting line-up, and on the evidence of the opening day of their first-class itinerary they have unearthed another talent in Vikram Rathore.

On Monday the bearded Punjabi scored a century against England NCA. Two days later, against an admittedly moderate Wor- cestershire attack, he hit a stylish 165 in an innings lasting five hours and containing 26 boundaries.

Rathore, 25, is particularly strong driving straight and through off but he is not afraid to hook, which eventually led to his downfall when India had reached 327 for three with nearly 80 minutes of the day left.

There is a place for an opener in the Indian batting with Manoj Prabhakar left behind and on this form the tour selectors need look no further than Rathore, last year's India A captain, who already has a double century to his name.

Rathore made his international debut last month in the Sharjah one-day series, and here seemed unperturbed by the alien climate.

Lloyd, England's coach, plans to film all the Indian players before the first Texaco international two weeks today. Lloyd said of his idea: ``It's basic stuff that other sports do. You are picking out what they [the opposition] have done wrong.''

It is a moot point whether Lloyd saw much to encourage him in the Worcestershire attack.

Lloyd is strong on county players having ``ambition'' to play for their country and wants what he calls ``two-dimensional'' talents in the England side: ``Perhaps we shall see a resurgence of the bits and pieces cricketer in the one-days,'' he said.

It is a moot point whether Lloyd saw much to encourage him in the Worcestershire attack. Alamgir Sheriyar generated some pace, hitting Rathore on the upper arm and finishing with three for 64, but neither Richard Illingworth nor Graeme Hick, who was hit for three sixes by Mohammad Azharuddin, posed any threat to the rampant Indians.

Rathore survived one uncomfortable moment early on, when he had reached 16 and edged Stuart Lampitt to Hick at second slip, but it was a no ball. Ajay Jadeja snicked Lampitt low to Steve Rhodes and took a step towards the pavilion before realising the wicketkeeper had spilled the chance.

India's progress was momentarily stalled by the fall of two wickets. Jadeja flailed outside off at Sheriyar and two overs later Sanjay Manjrekar's attempted flick off his toes was picked up at mid-wicket. Sachin Tendulkar, with only five to his name, top-edged Lampitt to wide mid-on and India might have been struggling but Sheriyar put down the easy chance.

After that there was no stopping the tourists. Tendulkar seemed happy to play second violin to Rathore, and after the Indian vice-captain had reached his half-century, including eight fours, he was picked up at cover point off Paul Thomas.

Rathore, never afraid to use his feet, drove Illingworth for his 16th four to reach three figures but might soon have lost his new partner when Azharuddin drove Thomas through midwicket and Reuben Spiring got half a hand on the ball.

Azharuddin settled down to punish Hick in a partnership of 121 with Rathore but after he too had passed 50, gave away his wicket trying an expansive drive, and Rathore was eventually caught off a skied hook.

Day 2: Hirwani caught in Hick whirlwind

India'S bowlers received not so much a warning as a declaration of intent from Graeme Hick yesterday. He destroyed the tour- ists' two leg-spinners with as imperious a display of hitting as has been seen on this ground for many a year.

Hick reached the 86th hundred of his career, and his 10th double century, in 181 balls, sharing in a record second-wicket stand for the county of 300 with Phil Weston, which took only 61 overs.

If he was severe on Anil Kumble, once taking 14 in an over from India's premier spinner, the treatment he handed out to Narendre Hirwani verged on the brutal. Hirwani's Test hopes may well have been destroyed by the assault, which included six sixes.

One over brought 27 runs. Hick began with a six which had Paras Mhambrey running into the sightscreen trying to take the catch. Then came two more over the long-on boundary. Two more fell short of the ropes and went for four and an attempt off the final delivery to pull Hirwani round for yet another boun- dary went low to Venkatesh Prasad, who failed to hold a low chance and a single resulted. Hick admitted afterwards that the thought of six sixes in an over had crossed his mind - ``before it started''.

It was the third time he has welcomed touring sides to New Road with big hundreds. In 1988 he scored 172 off the West Indians and five years later 187 against the Australians.

In fairness to the Indians, a slow, flat pitch and a biting north-easterly must have been their idea of purgatory. Kumble found that the only way to keep Hick quiet was to bowl round the wicket wide of the batsman's legs.

Weston produced many excellent strokes in his 98 but was quite overshadowed. He was on 21 when Hick arrived at the crease and in seven overs had been overtaken by his partner.

One wicket, that of Tim Curtis, went down in the first hour, when Mohammad Azharuddin made up for spilling an edge off Weston by taking a sharp low one-handed catch off Mhambrey.

The next wicket did not fall until after tea, when the fourth delivery from Sourav Ganguly's medium pace trapped the left- handed Weston pushing forward.

In the interim Hick meted out fierce punishment, tak- ing 46 balls for his first half-century, then successively 55, 29 and 51. Between them the leg-spinners conceded 237 runs off 52 overs.

Hick was eventually out toeing an intended pull to midwicket, having taken 195 balls for his 215, with 30 boundaries as well as his half-dozen sixes.

Day 3: Indians upset over delayed declaration

Indians (349-5 dec & 240-2) drew with Worcs (476-6 dec)

The Indians and the home county were at loggerheads yesterday after the tourists' opening first-class game of their tour dwin- dled away to a purposeless non-contest.

Sandeep Patil, the Indian team manager, criticised Worcestershire for failing to declare early enough to set a run challenge. David Houghton, the county's coach, defended the decision, saying the priority was for his batsmen to get practice in the middle.

In the event neither side were willing, or able, to take advan- tage of the #10,000 prize money on offer in this Tetley's Chal- lenge match. A Worcestershire victory would have given them #7,500: India would have collected #2,500 if they had succeeded.

Worcestershire, already 91 runs on overnight, batted on for 35 minutes, eventually declaring 127 ahead. Steve Rhodes occupied the crease for 2.75 hours in making 53 and immediately he was bowled by Anil Kumble, home captain Tom Moody closed the in- nings.

India's batsmen then went through the motions with first-innings century-maker Vikram Rathore and Ajay Jadeja putting on 146 for the first wicket. Rathore was eventually dismissed for 72 in very much the same manner as before, pulling Stuart Lampitt to deep square leg. Jadeja, looking for a Test place, went on to a four-hour century.

India's first innings occupied 92 overs and Worcestershire, going in with seven overs left on the opening day, faced a total of 117.

Patil said afterwards: ``I wasn't happy about the way Wor- cestershire batted on, though I have no complaints. This was the first three-day game we have played for a long time and if I'd known Moody was going to bat on I'd have liked our bats- men to carry on too. I thought he might have declared an hour after lunch on the second day.''

Patil said the money on offer was good ``but you have to take a risk to earn it. If they had I'd have set them a challenging tar- get. The money isn't that important but it maintains interest in the match.

``We could have carried on but we thought that it would have been unfair. I've been on three England tours now and have al- ways experienced sporting declarations.''

There were hints from the Indian camp that they would be thinking twice before making further declarations against the counties.

Houghton said he regarded this as ``a practice match. My main concern is to get the players in the right nick for the com- petitive cricket ahead, which is the most important part of our game.

``Rhodes had not had a score before this and Reuben Spiring, who is on the verge of the side, needed some time facing good bowlers.

``I'm sorry if the crowd were disappointed but my prime con- sideration is preparation for the competitive season ahead.''

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at et@telegraph.co.uk