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Ramprakash's victory skip spoke of a soul released from torment

By Rory Bremner

21 March 1998

THE circus has left town. The cricketers, the army of fans and the tons of equipment that follow this tour across the Caribbean have left Barbados. Next stop, Antigua.

Monday's wash-out was such a shame, all the more since Tuesday was once again clear and blue. The Test had been a gripping one, the developing drama of a young and newly-confident England side inching their way to a winning position, like a boy tiptoeing past a sleeping giant. The giant never woke, the destruction wreaked by the two Ws - Walsh and Wallace - proving to be fitful snores.

It was a treat to see Mark Ramprakash score his first Test century. His carefree victory skip round the wicket, arms thrown as wide as his grin, spoke of a soul released from torment.

No one will have been more delighted than England coach David Lloyd. Adored by his team, his humour and enthusiasm inspires them, and even his moans are entertaining, delivered in that rich Accrington accent. ``'Ave yer seen the balls we're using? They're pre-1991! Roody great seam on 'em - like sorpe on a rorpe.''

Brian Lara, meanwhile, goes his own sweet way. It seems that neither coach Malcolm Marshall nor manager Clive Lloyd wanted to bowl on the first day, but Lara had other plans, and with England 54 for four at lunch, who is to say he was wrong? To get more than 400 from there was a top effort by England, worthy of as much comment as Mike Atherton's alleged V-sign to Philo Wallace, which could just as easily have been directed at the press box.

Among the older generation of cricketers there is still sadness at the loss of David Bairstow, the big-hearted and ebullient Yorkshire wicketkeeper who took his own life in January.

Among the memories here, talk of Bluey's energy and his appetite for fun is never far away. His great mate Phil Carrick captured his humour at the funeral when, as one of the pall-bearers, he turned to fellow mourner John Hampshire and said: ``D'ye know, ah've carried this booger out of that many places in 'is life, but this is the first time ah've ever carried 'im in.''

Other cricketers of the Bairstow era make their living in the cricket tour market. There is something richly comic in the sight of them plying their trade among the ticket touts and irate package-tourists from Tunbridge Wells (''I don't care if you took 500 wickets for England, I specifically asked for two tomatoes in my packed lunch'').

I would love to see Fred Trueman in here somewhere, giving it the old routine about how different it was when he was a travel agent. ``We 'ad uncovered tickets in them days. D'you know, some of these young lads now, they've got ABTA bonded insurance.''

Somewhere in there we would have the usual argument about who was first to get a hundred tickets in a season, and who was the last to 1,000 flights before the end of May.

You could put together a mean squad from the former England players organising or helping out on tours here this week: Chris Broad, John Edrich, Mike Denness, Colin Cowdrey, Robin Smith, David Capel, Barry Dudleston (wk), Gladstone Small, Neil Foster, Fred Rumsey, John Snow, John Price and Pat Pocock, with Jack Hampshire as umpire.

Given the choice between putting up a shelf or watching Shivnarine Chanderpaul bat I would opt for the former. He may be one of the great accumulators but then so was Howard Hughes and you will not find him in Wisden. I would sooner stop Chanderpaul on his way to the wicket, ask how many runs he would like, and give them to him then and there to save the torment of watching him grind them out over 6.5 hours.

Fans of Brian Johnston will be delighted to know his sense of humour and love of practical jokes on Test Match Special is alive and well thanks to Jonathan Agnew. As the Kensington Oval PA system rang out again with the message, ``would Mr Hugh Jarce please make his way to the BBC commentary position'' a series of chuckles betrayed the work of Aggers.

The old game of giving the announcer spoof names to read out reached new heights in Paarl on the last South Africa tour. Among those summoned to the box were Terry Fyderwerk, Willy Eckerslike, Andy Fort'shops and, Bumble's favourite, a Mr Branston Pickles whose car is sandwiched in the car park.

In Barbados, we had four great ebb-and-flow, drama and suspense, chess and fireworks days of cricket enjoyed by all races, ages and genders, and an England team with a silver lining of young talent beyond the cloud of frustration who are loving every minute of the challenge. Now that is really worth writing home about.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 21 Mar1998 - 11:40