The Electronic Telegraph carries daily news and opinion from the UK and around the world.

New-ball bowling most to blame for England's demise

Christopher Martin-Jenkins

11 February 1998

THE England team began two days of rest in Trinidad yesterday, trying to forget. Great innings by Carl Hooper or not, the West Indian victory at Port of Spain on Monday was daylight robbery, writes Christopher Martin-Jenkins.

England, 242 runs on with six wickets left on a pitch playing awkwardly when play started on Sunday, should have won the game easily.

Graham Thorpe and Adam Hollioake were unable to get the innings going again, the tail folded meekly and Andrew Caddick and Dean Headley could not produce what was needed with the new ball. Bowling short on a slow pitch was meat and drink to Stuart and David Williams.

Still, at 124 for five, there was no logical way that the West Indies were going to reach 282, the highest total of the match. Hooper had been notorious in the past for failing to get his head down when things are going wrong for his side.

David Williams averaged 13 with the bat in Test cricket when he walked out on Sunday evening. Now he is the latest in a long line of contemporary cricketers whose best batting performance in Test cricket has been achieved against England. Playing every ball on its merits, their batting throughout was calm and orthodox. It was a famous partnership.

Of all the setbacks since Atherton took command of his first touring side in the West Indies four years ago, this, nevertheless, was the worst. All their physical and mental preparation after all had been designed to create a unified team who would not buckle under pressure. When the crunch came, they did buckle, not so much with the bat as in the field.

By their own shortcomings England have greatly diminished their chances of winning the series against an opposition who looked to be in severe danger of imploding when Lara and his predecessor Courtney Walsh were in disagreement with each other on Sunday evening.

When the game got really tight on the final day, Atherton although he made no mistake so obvious as Lara's when he failed to give Walsh and Curtly Ambrose the new ball - was unable to conjure up inspiration from a side who seemed to fear failure.

As so often in the past, his bowlers let him down. Headley did not find any rhythm until it was all too late; Caddick merely confirmed every fear about his fallibility under pressure.

Caddick, the big, fit, talented, rather graceless adopted son of Somerset, is such a handful when the force is with him down the breeze at Taunton or as he was in Barbados four years ago and at the Oval against Australia in August, but he has to be held mainly responsible for the devastating reverse.

Caddick and Devon Malcolm are the prime examples of bowlers who have all that it takes to be consistently successful at Test level except consistency itself.

Darren Gough, who is only due to resume training next week after the operation to his damaged left hamstring, has yet to prove that he is not another case in point.

Caddick took 24 wickets against Australia last summer, and it might be an over-reaction to drop him straight away now, but once again he allowed himself to be too easily rattled and down-hearted.

England have to make do with what they have and we shall see whether they take a gamble on Friday with either Ashley Cowan or Chris Silverwood, the two eager young pretenders.

Cowan took none for 75 on the true pitch at Chedwin Park in Jamaica, which was neither a good nor a bad performance. His attitude is excellent. So is that of Gough's replacement, the cheerful and dedicated Silverwood, who has not yet had a game.

Who plays in the must-win third Test depends mainly on what the pitch looks like after its pounding from countless studs throughout the match on the neighbouring strip and on how much grass is left on.

The long bowl which Robert Croft enjoyed at Guaracara Park in Trinidad last week at least puts him in contention if England decide that they should change the balance of their attack, but I fear the ball does not turn quickly enough here for him and Tufnell to be any more effective. The same may not be true at Bourda in Guyana later this month.

Mark Ramprakash, an isolated and unhappy man at present after starting the tour so encouraged by having played an important part in the win at the Oval, could come in to the side now only as a replacement for Adam Ho1lioake or Jack Russell.

His many overs in the nets under John Emburey's tutelage have improved him as an occasional off-spinner and there is a strong case for his restoration to the team at six.

Unfortunate though that would be for Hollioake, who was given little to do with the ball in the second Test and could do nothing about being run out by his partner in the first innings, this is the change which should be made, if any. Although Russell had a ghastly match, he comes into the same category as Fraser: a cricketer of character not lightly to be cast aside.

Character will be at a premium in Port of Spain this weekend. Unless England hit back immediately on what is virtually certain to be a result pitch, they can say goodbye to the Wisden Trophy and they will have a new captain next season.

But that is to jump the gun. Neither Atherton nor his team are finished yet.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at
Contributed by CricInfo Management

Date-stamped : 11 Feb1998 - 10:19