Dawn Pakistan's most widely circulated English language newspaper.

England face West Indies for Champions Trophy today

By Tanvir Ahmed

19 December 1997

SHARJAH, Dec 18: For the first time in 16 years, a final will played here on Friday without featuring either Pakistan or India. Both teams, rather unceremoniously, were ousted in the qualifying rounds last week. For the first time, the West Indies will be taking on England in the final of the seventh edition of the Champions Trophy.

Both Adam Hollioake and Courtney Walsh are optimistic about their team's potential to lift the trophy.

If the West Indies are able to do so, it will be their third title, having already won here in 1986 and 1993 - defeating Pakistan on both occasions.

England have yet to win this title. In fact their track record in Sharjah is not as impressive with only one title, the Sharjah Cup, which they had won from Pakistan ten years ago.

This time out England have a better record with three straight wins in the pool matches as against two wins for the West Indies. England's first win against India, was by a narrow margin of seven runs but they had defeated West Indies far more convincingly - by four wickets. Their last pool victory against Pakistan was by eight runs.

If one is to compare the two sides, the West Indies have the advantage of experience with veterans like Walsh, Carl Hooper, Brian Lara, Ian Bishop and Phil Simmons combined with the youthful vigour of Franklyn Rose, Mervyn Dillon and Rawl Lewis.

No doubt they have lately been through a bad patch. But here in Sharjah they looked a much improved side. Their last all-important match against India confirmed that they had surely come out of the trauma after the humiliation in Pakistan.

A polished and chanceless unbeaten hundred by Stuart Williams and a brilliant spell of spin bowling - 4 for 37 by Carl Hooper in the last match - put them a little ahead of their adversary for the final on Friday. And one must not forget Hooper's unbeaten century against England on Saturday last. Lara had one good innings from three pool matches. He can click and if he is in full cry the bowlers shiver. England have only one hundred by the old campaigner Alec Stewart - and a 50 by Graham Thorpe to their credit. But they have two more experienced batsmen Graeme Hick and Nick Knight - due for a good score. Their pace attack is not as experienced as that of the West Indies but here in Sharjah, Dougie Brown, Matthew Fleming and Dean Headley have been on target. Their approach has been more matter of fact than that of other fast bowlers.

Much will also depend on how the wicket behaves. For the first four days it was full of runs. Batsmen failed to use it to their advantage is a different matter. Then during the last two matches the strip was helping the spinners. Saqlain and Manzoor chipped in four wickets each against England on Monday. On Tuesday, Hooper (four), Chanderpaul (three) and Lewis (one) practically spun India out of the tournament. Earlier in the same match, Chauhan got two and Ganguly and Kumble sharing one each. If the strip used on Friday behaves in the same manner as it did during the last match, the West Indies may have a slight edge because Lewis and Hooper may prove more effective than Robert Croft.

Both teams fly to London on Saturday morning after Friday night's floodlit match. Shortly after he arrives, Lara will drive to Birmingham for a news conference at Edgbaston where he is expected to re-sign for Warwickshire as their captain for next season.

Source: Dawn
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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 15:07