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Lessons from a one-day debacle

By Matthew Fleming

11 April 1998

THIS really has been the most extraordinary tour. I have been mistaken for Alec Stewart (hurray), Dougie Brown (mmm) and Ashley Cowan (no comment). I have been deposited into the top tier of the grandstand (apologies to the young lady in Row F, Seat 7).

My bowling carried a health warning when Brian Lara was batting, with particular reference to the scoreboard operator in Bridgetown, who wisely chose to wear a helmet during my second spell.

I have been narrowly missed by a nail thrown from the crowd, yet before the innings was over wished that it had hit me. I've had to learn to laugh, not cry.

I have watched, listened and read about cricket in the Caribbean for as long as I can remember, yet nothing could have prepared me for the atmosphere of the first one-day international in Barbados.

Our preparations had gone well. The team spirit, self-belief and determination to win had been carried over from Sharjah and we could not have felt more positive about our chances.

Nick Knight's innings was sublime, he treated Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Co with disdain and along with Alec Stewart laid the foundations for our substantial total. The West Indians came out with all guns blazing.

We had been warned that now the Test series was over, Philo Wallace and Clayton Lambert would really start to play their shots. This was brutal batting. It heralded one of the most ferocious run chases imaginable. Under the most extreme pressure we held our nerve, fielded brilliantly, bowled intelligently and won a cliff-hanger.

The second match was, if anything, better than the first. Having lost the toss and been inserted on a damp wicket we showed extraordinary character and at the end the ability to bat crudely yet effectively, to post a competitive score. On an absolute belter the West Indies were cruising.

In one-day cricket, however, one ball changes everything, and Carl Hooper's dismissal heralded a finale where fortunes appeared to change with every delivery. In the end the old warriors, Ambrose and Walsh, ensured a West Indian victory, yet strangely ours was the more positive changing-room. It was after this 'glorious defeat' that for no apparent reason things went downhill.

There can be no excuses for our performances on St Vincent and in Port of Spain. It wasn't just the wheels that came off, we lost our entire under- carriage.

As much as the West Indians improved, their selections, tactics and fielding were inspired, our performances plummeted.

Our previous games in Sharjah were a lousy form guide. Then, the West Indians were demoralised after a 3-0 defeat in Pakistan, keen to get home and missing the mighty Ambrose.

Now bubbling with confidence under a new captain, after a relatively convincing victory in the Test series, and selecting from their full quota of cricketers they were a different proposition. These factors alone cannot explain the sudden turnaround.

To lose a series as we did, rather than the West Indies win it, is deeply depressing.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 11 Apr1998 - 11:37