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West Indies may revert to familiar fast routine

Christopher Martin-Jenkins

11 March 1998

BARBADOS is in a state of suspended animation. Everything seems to be building towards the major event of the entire tour, the Bridgetown Test which starts tomorrow.

The West Indies selectors have made radical changes to their batting, which will probably include the substitution of Roland Holder for Jimmy Adams in addition to the new opening pair of Philo Wallace and Clayton Lambert.

England's players are battling to focus only on another match which they cannot lose in the face of various social demands or attractions. Only John Crawley, for whom the tour has ended in deep disappointment, although his Test career is not beyond redemption, was able to play against the Royal Westmoreland Golf Club for an England and Media golf team, organised jointly by Ian Botham and the England Cricket Board chairman, Lord MacLaurin.

Meanwhile, the building work continues at the southern end at Kensington Oval as finishing touches are applied to the handsome new stand and the spacious, if far from perfectly designed, media centre.

The Test pitch itself received a little more heavy rolling yesterday, although it already looks beautifully prepared, with creases marked. It is expected to be just a little quicker and bouncier than the one on which England's match against Barbados ended in a draw on Monday, only 17 wickets having fallen in three days.

Over half of those wickets fell to slow bowlers and four to the unconsidered leg-spinner, Terry Rollock, but England are still expected to leave out Phil Tufnell and the West Indies may yet elect to go back to four fast bowlers, for all the promise of Dinanath Ramnarine's debut in Georgetown.

Mike Atherton's current theory, that England's problem has been scoring runs, not taking wickets, seems to take too little account of the pitches encountered to date. Alec Stewart's batting, however, is in such perfect touch that he, David Lloyd and Nasser Hussain, the tour selectors, are probably right to stick by Jack Russell on the ground where he so nearly saved England in the 1990 Test, at the expense of Tufnell.

Hussain said: ``I think the Kensington Oval is one of the best grounds in the world for Test cricket and a good pitch will ensure that the better side will win the match. Every Test at the moment is huge for us and what we have to do before and during this next Test is to concentrate on staying positive and getting our minds right.''

Whether England can bowl out the West Indies twice with four bowlers will depend to some extent on how the West Indian gamble comes off. If Wallace succeeds he will be spectacular. He is not about to become the fourth W but he hits the ball with all his considerable might, as Clyde Walcott, a man of similar build, once did.

He is another example of the crucial importance of a good grounding at school for most sportsmen and women. He is a product of Ellerslie School, only founded in 1966. Thanks to the influence of just one enthusiastic teacher, Irving Harris, it has already produced two other Bajan Test openers in Carlisle Best and Wallace's contemporary, the displaced Sherwin Campbell.

Win lose or draw the last two matches, it is right that the chairman of selectors, David Graveney, should be here to watch England at first hand, given the far-reaching effect these games may have on the remainder of the year's cricket.

He will give an opinion without demanding a say on England's final XI here and settle with Atherton and David Lloyd on which players - a minimum of one and maximum of three - should stay on after the main business of the tour to augment the 13 selected for the one-day internationals following the Sharjah tournament. Final decisions will be made before the Antigua Test, which starts on Saturday week.

'Prof' Edwards, the man who oversees Bridgetown's excellent square, took a quick trip to Antigua on Monday to inspect the relaid pitch at St John's after it was tried out in a two-day club match of high standard at the weekend. Reports say that it was slow, with no disconcerting bounce, either high or low.

West Indies (from): P A Wallace, C Lambert, *B C Lara, S Chanderpaul, C L Hooper, J C Adams, -D Williams, I R Bishop, C E L Ambrose, C A Walsh, D Ramnarine, R I C Holder, N McLean.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 11 Mar1998 - 14:22