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Atherton in line for surprise England return

By Stephen Thorpe in Port-of-Spain

8 April 1998

ENGLAND are seeking to salvage some self-respect at the Queen's Park Oval today in the final Cable & Wireless one-day international, which the West Indies will use to gauge their World Cup options.

Three successive defeats may have dampened the tourists' ardour but the mauling in St Vincent served only to stiffen their resolve.

Whether this will be enough to overturn the buoyant West Indies is another matter and Brian Lara, the home side's captain, is bent on a memorable last offering for a capacity home crowd of 25,000.

Speculation surrounds the possible return of Michael Atherton, who has an exceptional record against the West Indies in one-day matches. David Lloyd, the England coach, is keen to rehabilitate the former national captain, who spent yesterday fishing with Dean Headley, Angus Fraser and Matthew Fleming.

England have missed Graham Thorpe in the middle order but there was no rational explanation for the batting failure on Sunday and credit is due to the West Indies for attaining a blend as much by accident as design, and for their successful adaptation of England's stance on batting and bowling all-rounders.

Curtly Ambrose is still indisposed with a back twinge and, while the suggestion lingers that he is not the force of yore on good pitches, despite his 30 wickets in the Test series, the laying-off of Courtney Walsh, too, has caused barely a ripple. Mervyn Dillon and Nixon McLean, whom Thorpe rated as the fastest of the lot in the match against West Indies A at Chedwin Park, Jamaica, in January, have suddenly raised their profile.

Yet for the first time in living memory, the West Indies are content to field just two fast bowlers. Nor have England quite fathomed the slow men, Rawl Lewis, Carl Hooper and Keith Arthurton.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul returns to the squad after a stomach complaint and Phil Simmons and Lewis make way for Laurie Williams, 29, the Jamaican all-rounder who enjoyed an outstanding A tour of South Africa, and Guyanese left-arm spinner Neil McGarrell, who had an innings haul of seven for 71 in the tour match at Everest seven weeks ago.

Arthurton, the Nevisian left-hander and a veteran of 87 one-day internationals, made two runs in five World Cup matches in 1996 and was seemingly consigned to the scrap heap.

Still lithe and fleet-footed, more panther than fielder, his rehabilitation has proved a master stroke and no batsman came to terms with his whippy, flat left-armers on Saturday.

Carl Tuckett, 27, a compatriot, retains his place as an all-rounder after a surprise call-up for the Vice-Chancellor's game in Barbados recently.

With the series won, the West Indies are aiming to use as many players as possible, yet there are rumblings of discord in the camp.

Wes Hall, the chairman of selectors, has hinted at resignation, citing business commitments and his dissatisfaction at the constant carping of territorial factions. Hall, a decent and honourable man, could sign off with a 3-1 Test series victory and a possible 4-1 margin in the one-dayers. Not bad for a ``failure''.

Whatever the outcome of today's match, the West Indians are in celebratory mood, and nowhere likes a party more than Port-of-Spain. England may be hard pressed to spoil it.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 08 Apr1998 - 10:29