The Electronic Telegraph carries daily news and opinion from the UK and around the world.

West Indies pair open their shoulders to forge strong link

By Mark Nicholas

23 March 1998

IN the context of the restrained style of most of the batting in this series to date, it has been amazing to watch the relish with which Philo Wallace and Clayton Lambert tear into England's new ball.

Their partnership of 167 in the sixth Test here in Antigua follows the 82 and 72 they put on in Barbados. Prior to their selection for that match, one, Lambert, was considered past it, and the other, Wallace, not up to it. Because of this the West Indies selectors persevered with Sherwin Campbell and Stuart Williams when it was obvious that a change was needed.

Now, the selectors and both batsmen have proved to the cricketers of the Caribbean that no cause is lost. It was on the West Indies' 1991 tour of England that Lambert played his one previous Test, an appearance remembered more for the shambolic way he was out in the second innings, slogging wildly at Phil Tufnell.

Ignored by the selectors after that tour, he went for the gold of South Africa and spent three years playing for Northern Transvaal. He began with a double hundred in the strong Castle Cup competition, which raised a few local eyebrows. But in the second year of his contract he lost form and succumbed to a coach who insisted that his extraordinarily open stance, the exaggerated shuffle across his stumps and the bottom-handed shovelling method of his strokes would not do. Needless to say, in changing what came naturally, he went from bad to worse and returned to Guyana a chastened fellow. It is to his credit that he kept faith in his natural ability and recovered his confidence. Because of it, he has averaged virtually 50 in the past two seasons of inter-island cricket and earned a second chance to become a Test player.

The first opportunity for Wallace to hit the high life came on the West Indies' humiliating tour to Pakistan, but he fell lbw for low scores twice in Rawalpindi to those ultimate toe-crushers, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Can't play the moving ball, said the pundits, can't open the innings in Test cricket then, said the selectors. But there is an obstinate streak in Wallace, who is otherwise a most charming chap, that meant that he could not let go. He has been on the end of disciplinary hearings in his time - one three years ago after a Red Stripe match in which he not only smashed the stumps at his end when given out caught at the wicket, but walked down the pitch towards the pavilion and smashed the stumps at the umpire's end too. But in the main he has curbed his anger with the world.

He is an uncompromising thumper of the ball off either foot more boxer than dancer - but no slogger. England took him lightly at first, dangerously assuming he needed outrageous luck to make runs, but there is more to his play than the thunderous aerial driving that is his signature. The recent hundred he made against a good Guyanan attack on a spinner's paradise, which occupied six hours and required considerable skill, has given his cricket the dimension it lacked for success in the higher echelon.

Lambert made a hundred in that match too and it was a game they will not forget. Their close friendship has been forged in the north of England, where they play league cricket. And the joy they found in each other's success and in the landmarks for the team suggested they plan to make a habit of going in first for the West Indies.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
Editorial comments can be sent to The Electronic Telegraph at
Contributed by CricInfo Management

Date-stamped : 23 Mar1998 - 11:20