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Wallace's early verve proving tough to curb

By Scyld Berry in St Vincent

4 April 1998

ST VINCENT offers a most scenic setting for the climax of the one-day series, with the third international of the England tour scheduled for today, and the fourth for tomorrow, at Arnos Vale.

One of the more forthright straight hits by Philo Wallace, the West Indian opener, could deposit the ball out of the ground and into the sea, which is the deepest blue that the Caribbean can muster. Since it is nine miles behind the bowler's arm, the island of Bequia may be out of reach. From the other end, Wallace could land one on the grass verges of the airport runaway.

There has been plenty of Philo talk in recent days, yet his actions in the internationals so far (13 and 22) have not matched his Test innings of 45, 61 and 92. Wallace has been effective though, in reducing the first 15 overs into the final flourishes of a net session, and opening bowlers to gibbering, leaving England's superlative fielding to hold the line.

``It's a shock to the system when you see batsmen coming out all guns blazing,'' admitted Dougie Brown. Yet the West Indies have always produced opening batsmen who have given it licks and lashes.

``Everyone is aware you can get hit around the park in the first 15 overs, and there's not an awful lot you can do when Brian Lara plays as he is,'' added Brown. ``You can bowl six perfectly good balls in an over and still go for 10 runs.''

Arnos Vale is normally a high-scoring ground as well. The last time the teams met here, West Indies passed 300, even if England managed only half so many, and the pitch yesterday was again dry, albeit covered evenly with grass.

Michael Atherton was sufficiently recovered from his stomach upset to join in the net-session yesterday, before the party repaired for the second time on this tour to make merry on the Getty yacht. Of the three Test stalwarts in reserve, Angus Fraser might yet be called upon to take the new ball, while Jack Russell might have a turn if these matches, back to back, are too much for Alec Stewart's. But Atherton?

Little more than a year ago he was leading England to a Test series victory, and in the one-day series against New Zealand, when the music he chose for when he walked out to bat was by Oasis. Here, if the West Indies had the same grossly commercial practice, his signature tune would have to be ``Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I'm going out to eat worms.''

Originally Atherton was allotted No 1 for his shirt for these one-dayers; now his prospects must be dimmer than those of number 99, Franklyn Rose, who has been dropped altogether.

Atherton's appearances so far have been confined to carrying out the drinks, such is cricket's way of making the mighty humble. Will Carling never had to take out the oranges at half-time, nor Gary Lineker run the team bath.

To replace Rose, Courtney Walsh, who is resting, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul who is ill, West Indies have called in Keith Arthurton, who never quite got his head round Test cricket but who was Player of the Tournament in the last domestic one-day competition here; Nixon McLean, from Stubbs village, a couple of miles over the hills from Arnos Vale; and Carl Tuckett, the medium-paced all-rounder from the Leewards. West Indies are diversifying their bowling and strengthening their tail in one-day cricket, at last.

England (probable): N V Knight, -A J Stewart, B C Hollioake, G A Hick, M R Ramprakash, *A J Hollioake, M A Ealham, D R Brown, M V Fleming, R D B Croft, D W Headley.

West Indies (from): C B Lambert, P A Wallace, *B C Lara, S C Williams, C L Cooper, P V Simmons, -R D Jacobs, R N Lewis, C E L Ambrose, N A M McLean, C Tuckett, K L T Arthurton, M V Dillon.

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Date-stamped : 04 Apr1998 - 10:31