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English Lions prove to be quick learners

By Mark Nicholas

Saturday 1 November 1997

BATTING of the greatest skill and power, first from Derbyshire's Chris Adams and later from Surrey's Chris Lewis, saw the English Lions to a memorable victory in the first of the three-match Cathay Pacific Cricket Max Series here in Auckland last night.

The Max Blacks, New Zealand's custom-built cricket max team, shorn mind you of the four or five players who would have been chosen had the Test team not been touring Australia, reeled from an onslaught that these talented English cricketers reserved for their one-off opportunity to prove that they might have been chosen for the more important, more acceptable perhaps we should say, tours of the busy winter ahead.

The Lions included Robin Smith and Matthew Maynard, Shaun Udal, Phillip DeFreitas, Ian Austin, Graeme Welch and Dominic Ostler among players who either have represented or may one day represent England, and all did their bit in this fine first win.

Cricket max is Martin Crowe's brainchild and his conviction in selling it to Sky television, the New Zealand satellite channel, has worked a treat. Crowe and Sky are now a team, running a well-supported first-class domestic competition and selling this first international series to three television networks around the world.

The game is instant enough - no more than 3.5 hours in its entirety - to hold the attention of children, fast enough to re-excite the diminishing cricket-loving population and yet still demanding the traditional disciplines of the game to ensure success. The teams bat alternately for two 10-over innings each which may take no more than 40 minutes to bowl - only four overs are allowed per bowler. No-balls and wides are severely punished, wides cost two and are re-bowled and no-balls grant the batsman a free hit for the next ball. Fielding restrictions apply as in 50-over cricket as we know it, for the first five overs of each innings.

Best of all is the ``max zone'', an area 60 metres wide at the boundary behind the bowler and narrowing to 40 metres wide at a mark 60 metres from the batsman's crease. All runs scored in this area are doubled and one stunning six, or rather ``12'', by Adams cleared the running track and went high into the seats of the rugby stadium.

There are further variations and additions to the usual one-day rules you cannot be caught out in the max zone, for example, so it truly pays to hit straight - and suffice to say that the England team worked them out pretty quickly.

If Adams and Lewis appeared to be the heroes, they contributed no more to the Lions' triumph than any of Austin, Udal and Mark Alleyne, who bowled intelligently, or Ostler, whose batting illustrated the quality and precision of stroke that has been missing from his County Championship play of late. Ostler made fifty from 17 balls in the first innings - Adams eclipsed him with fifty from 15 balls in the second and he played equally well second time round to help set up the famous victory.

I say famous because the previous highest score by a side batting last to win a match in the 28-game history of cricket max was 125. England cruised past that, and the 136 needed to win, with an over to spare.

The second match is in Hamilton today and the New Zealanders will be hoping for an improved performance before the series finishes in Wellington tomorrow, particularly in the light of the disappointing news coming from their Test side in Australia.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 15:08