WI, England set for another thriller

Tony Becca, Senior Sport Editor

27 February 1998

CRICKET: Georgetown - The West Indies and England square-off at Bourda this morning for the start of the fourth Test and for what they both consider the pivotal contest in the six-match Cable and Wireless series.

After three matches, including the abandoned first Test at Sabina Park, after splitting the back-to-back battles at Queen's Park Oval, it is one-one, and based on the intensity of both teams during their final net sessions yesterday, the no-nonsense approach of both captains who are calling for everything from their players especially their batsmen, and the atmosphere around Georgetown, this is it.

``After this, there are two more to come,'' said West Indies captain Brian Lara. ``This however, could be the important one. If we win here, we will be in the lead, and especially with one at Kensington Oval, it will be difficult to catch us.''

``After the disappointment of losing the second Test when we looked like winning it, we came back to win the third,'' said England captain Mike Atherton. ``The boys are on a high, they are confident, and if we win this one we should be on our way.''

The sentiments of the captains are shared by the cricket-crazy fans of this South American city, and apart from the usual excitement which precedes a Test match here, the prayer on the lips of many is that hometown boy Carl Hooper will be in the line-up, the concern as to whether the pitch will last, and the hope that either Hooper or Shivnarine Chanderpaul will treat them to the first Test century by a Guyanese at Bourda since 1973 when a recalled Clive Lloyd slammed 178 against Australia, that is why the atmosphere on the eve of the contest was one of excitement mingled with a bit of fear.

According to Guyana Cricket Board of Control president Chetram Singh, the pitch will not be the usual slow, lifeless Bourda pitch. It will have more pace and bounce and it will last all five days.

West Indies coach Malcolm Marshall has his doubts however. ``It certainly does not look like the Bourda pitch of old. They say it is going to have a bit of bounce and more pace. I don't know. I just don't think it is ideal for a Test match.''

Based on the shaking of heads and the shrugging of shoulders when they looked at it on Wednesday afternoon, neither do captains Lara and Atherton. That is why they were not willing to even give a hint as to what the respective teams will be.

The West Indies however, appear set to include 23-year-old Dinanath Ramnarine whose fast right-arm legspinners and googlies could be an asset over the final two days on a pitch which, because of the hot sun since last July, should be dry and dusty by then.

Apart from Ramnarine, who, if selected, will be making his debut, the team, but for pacer Kenneth Benjamin, is expected to be the same as it was for the second and third Test matches.

It is possible however, even if Hooper retains his place after flouting the selectors' instructions to play in the Guyana/England match, that Roland Holder could be recalled - not as a middle-order batsman, but as one of the opening batsman, not for Stuart Williams who is nursing an injured left knee but reportedly fit enough to play, but, according to the whispers coming out of the Windies camp, for Sherwin Campbell who, in his four innings to date, has been caught by the wicketkeeper for one at 16 for one, at second slip for 10 at 10 for one, at first slip for 28 at 93 for two in 127 minutes and 30 overs, and leg before wicket for 13 at 66 for two in 109 minutes and 24 overs.

For England, the possibilities are many - mainly because of the pitch.

It is no secret that they are pondering three fast bowlers - Fraser, Dean Headley and Andy Caddick, and two spinners - left-arm spinner Phil Tufnell and offspinner Robert Croft.

The problem however, is that such a move would leave England with only five specialist batsmen - unless they use Alec Stewart as the wicketkeeper. They do not want to shorten their batting - not with the present form of their batsmen, neither do they want to ``burden'' Stewart, their top batsman to date, with the extra load of keeping wicket.

The alternative is to play two pacers, two spinners, keep their regular wicketkeeper, and bring back Adam Hollioake to bat at number six and to support the two pacers with his medium pace.


The West Indies late last night omitted Holder and McLean from their 13-man squad. The team for the Test is: Brian Lara (captain), Sherwin Campbell, Stuart Williams, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jimmy Adams, Carl Hooper, David Williams, Courtney Walsh, Ian Bishop, Curtly Ambrose and Dinanath Ramnarine.

England's 12-man squad: Mike Atherton (captain), Alec Stewart, Mark Butcher, Mark Ramprakash, Nasser Hussain, Graham Thorpe, Jack Russell, Robert Croft, Angus Fraser, Andrew Caddick, Dean Headley and Phil Tufnell.

Source: The Jamaica Gleaner

Contributed by CricInfo Management, and reproduced with permission

Date-stamped : 28 Feb1998 - 10:20