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Slow death as England batsmen fall short

By Stephen Thorpe in Kingstown, St Vincent

6 April 1998

ENGLAND slumped to a third consecutive defeat and conceded the Cable & Wireless one-day trophy to a resurgent West Indies after one of their most ignominious batting displays in recent times rendered the fifth and final engagement in Trinidad on Wednesday academic. Only pride remains.

The top order was shot away in quick time by a new fast bowling pairing, the twin tyros Nixon McLean and Mervyn Dillon, then England evened things up by committing hara-kiri against the spinners and were dismissed for 149 in 48.5 overs.

A stroll was always on after that, and West Indies even had time for sightseeing, cruising to the target with 12.2 overs and five wickets remaining. Clayton Lambert led the charge with a typically forthright 52 after Angus Fraser had bowled Philo Wallace, then the departure of Phil Simmons and Stuart Williams caused momentary trepidation.

No matter, as Brian Lara, glorious in victory, completed the formality with his own pyrotechnics in a 64-ball half-century which made him the man of the match.

This has proved a sorry last lap of another arduous tour of the islands and not even the idyllic setting could offset deep disappointment in the wake of such high early expectation. There can be no excuse either because the pitch certainly held no terrors.

Nice to see a West Indian ground largely recolonised by the locals in noisy bacchanal. If the English invasion of Barbados and the subsequent ticketing farrago was designed to augment the board's coffers, then the weekend here has seen a return to quintessential small-island cricket.

St Vincent is one of the least affluent countries in the region but the passion for cricket is unwavering and 10,000 spectators were again packed to the rafters.

Arnos Vale has seen massive refurbishment since England were the first international visitors in 1981. Ian Botham made 60 that day, Colin Croft took six for 15 and West Indies shaded the match by two runs. Both those protagonists were present yesterday while another, Geoffrey Boycott, is currently persona non grata.

England never recovered from a calamitous start yesterday when they lost their first four wickets inside seven overs during a fiery opening burst from the local boy, McLean.

Alec Stewart was held at square leg from a well-timed pick-up shot, Ben Hollioake went caught behind off one that bounced and left him, then Dillon, the Trinidadian, in for the injured Curtly Ambrose, had Nick Knight caught behind.

Interesting to note, one of England's drinks men languishing in the dressing-room, a certain Mr Atherton, averages 70.88 in 11 one- dayers against this opposition.

Graeme Hick briefly hinted at longevity until McLean, steaming in from the northern end, removed his off stump to riotous acclaim from the massed ranks of his compatriots.

David Lloyd, the England coach, had remarked beforehand that Jack Russell was replacing Mark Ramprakash because ``we became a little static in the middle order on Saturday and needed a left-hander to work it around''. Now the requirements were somewhat different and the Gloucestershire wicket-keeper rose to the occasion admirably in a partnership of 36 with Adam Hollioake.

The captain eventually clipped Dillon to short mid-wicket, then Russell was bemused by a looping slower full toss which struck the base of leg stump to leave England floundering on 83 for six.

The side supposedly bat deep but when Douggie Brown heaved across Rawl Lewis's leg spin to hoist a top-edged skier to Ridley Jacobs and Mark Ealham missed Carl Hooper's arm ball, Matthew Flemming compounded the damage with an awful shot at Phil Simmons' gentle off-cutter.

England finally committed the cardinal sin of failing to bat through their full allo- cation when Jacobs held Robert Croft off Simmons.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 06 Apr1998 - 10:26