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Hollioake's new cast can lighten England gloom

Christopher Martin-Jenkins

28 March 1998

THE final phase of the England tour begins tomorrow but it is more like a new tour altogether. The one-day internationals for the Cable and Wireless Trophy, starting with games in Barbados tomorrow and on Wednesday, continuing with two matches in St Vincent next weekend and concluding with a fifth in Port of Spain two days before the Easter weekend, give a different captain and a completely altered team a chance to put a brighter complexion on an unlucky campaign.

There has been no room for sentiment in England's selection for the opening match. Four of the Test side who have stayed on Michael Atherton, Angus Fraser, Mark Ramprakash and Jack Russell - are expected to be relegated to the substitutes' bench, leaving only Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe and Dean Headley of the team beaten in Antigua.

England will therefore take the field with only one change from the side who won the Champions Trophy in Sharjah last December, Ben Hollioake taking over from Surrey stablemate Alistair Brown.

Like all the players under Adam Hollioake's command, his young brother will be encouraged to play his natural game. Two fine shots and two loose ones during his brief innings in England's warm-up match yesterday were characteristic, but the likes of Ambrose and Walsh will need to be accorded some respect.

Walsh is expected to play only in the first two games in Bridgetown before returning to Gloucestershire. That will give the West Indies selectors a chance to be more adventurous in using these games, as England are, as part of the preparation for the 1999 World Cup, with its new 27,000 trophy and first prize of 200,000. Walsh's stamina for Test cricket may continue to amaze but he is a liability in the field in limited-overs cricket.

Jamaican all-rounder Lennie Williams would have been a more far-sighted choice and Keith Arthurton remains the most effective one-day player in the Caribbean.

England are awash with all-rounders. The slow-balling tactics of Matthew Fleming, Mark Ealham and Adam Hollioake worked perfectly on the slow pitch in Sharjah, where England twice beat the West Indies, albeit only with a good deal of assistance from their opponents in the final. Whether these three will be so effective on quicker pitches in Barbados and St Vincent will be instructive.

The whole idea of having limited-overs specialists - the once reviled 'bits and pieces' cricketers - will be under fascinating scrutiny in these games. Only one member of the England side tomorrow, Nick Knight, will be expected definitely to do no more than bat and field. Stewart will keep wicket and any one of the other nine might be called on to bowl. Yet only Headley would describe himself as a bowler rather than as an all-rounder.

By contrast the West Indies rely on what may or may not be an outmoded policy of sticking to specialists. Carl Hooper and the evergreen Phil Simmons are the exceptions. For sober and steady cricketers like Atherton and Fraser to break into a side of livewire players, the policy will have to be seen to be a failure. Graeme Hick, though, will have to look to his laurels he was bowled cheaply yesterday - if he is to keep out Ramprakash.

Fraser played his part in England's match against the Vice Chancellor's XI yesterday on a day when the Greenidge and Haynes Stand was christened and the two great openers played with quite remarkable style and authority. Thorpe was allowed to rest after the traumatic ending to his brave attempt to save the final Test on Tuesday.

On reflection it would have been fairer to say that Thorpe was outwitted by Curtly Ambrose, as opposed to playing dimwittedly, during the frenetic finish when he appeared not to be trying hard enough to protect the tail-enders.

Jimmy Adams showed how it could be done in Trinidad and Thorpe should now be wiser for the experience, although if he bats at No 4 and Nasser Hussain at No 3 in future, he ought not to be in the same situation too often. The lessons of missed opportunities have to be quickly absorbed by all the Test players.

For the moment, the stage belongs to the one-day experts and a captain who may be one of life's winners. In nine internationals to date, Adam Hollioake has finished on the winning side in eight.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 28 Mar1998 - 11:46