Cricket: Hussain's practice falls a little short of perfection Cricket

Derek Pringle reports from Kingston; England 400-8 dec v West Indies A
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Derek Pringle

reports from Kingston

England 400-8 dec v West Indies A

The rural idyll of Jamaica's Chedwin Park may be a long way from the cauldron of Sabina Park, but England will be well pleased with their efforts here yesterday, declaring their first innings at 400 for 8. Nasser Hussain, in particular, will have good cause to remember this pretty ground, with a marvellous 159 and England's first century of the tour.

Beginning the day on 131, the England vice-captain started cautiously. With this being the last occasion to find some form before the Test series begins next week, Hussain intended to spend another few hours at the crease.

However, a painful blow to the box as he missed a pull shot against Larry Williams seemed to unnerve him and soon afterwards - after seven and a half hours at the crease - he was stumped by Ricky Hoyt, trying to launch the leg-spinner Rawl Lewis over the top.

It is exactly the kind of innings that helps win Test matches and, having shared century partnerships with Graham Thorpe and Adam Hollioake, England now have at least three batsman in good fettle.

If Hussain has a weakness when he is set, it is his running between the wickets. Quick singles appear to be taken and refused in totally arbitrary fashion, and few can afford to sit back on their heels when they are batting with him, something Hollioake later found out to his cost.

Having been in a good position the previous day when England were struggling at 30 for 3, the inexperience of the West Indies A bowlers began to show. Hollioake, a cricketer with brain as well as brawn, sensed this and counter- attacked.

With the strapping Nixon McLean - one of three young fast bowlers in the squad for Sabina Park - bearing down, many would have been content simply to see him off with a broad bat. Not Hollioake, who, with a stiff- armed pick up over mid-wicket and a thumping drive to the extra cover fence, made sure there was no gentle easing into things.

In many ways Hollioake reminds one of the buccaneers that used to inhabit this region. There is the same bristling menace and, although he is unlikely to partake of the brew favoured by Blackbeard, a heady mixture of beer, gin, rum, sherry and gunpowder, he probably felt like one after being run out two runs short of a deserving half-century after a mix-up with Hussain.

As with most Caribbean grounds the outfield is less than flat and Hollioake clearly felt that Hussain's scything drive to backward point would not be fielded cleanly. Although no early call was audible, Hollioake set off only to see Williams get lucky with the bobble and send in a pin- point return to the bowler, Lewis, who promptly whipped of the bails. It was thrilling stuff and by far the home team's best cricket of the morning session.

Once Hussain had gone with the score on 346 for 6, it was left to Jack Russell to score runs as quickly as possible with the tail. With Russell adopting his usual quirky methods of slashing the ball past point, it was left to the taller figures of Andy Caddick and Ashley Cowan to do the hitting.

It was a gambit that proved only partially successful as Caddick miscued a lofted drive to mid-off. Cowan, however, collared Lewis for two boundaries - the second a flat six nonchalantly swatted into the charming timber pavilion at mid-wicket. Cowan then decided to try to do the same to the pacier Reon King and was bowled off an inside-edge on the stroke of lunch.

To a first-time tourist like Cowan this tour will have opened eyes and ears like no other. Nicknamed "Gromit" due to an oracular likeness to the plasticine dog, Cowans will need ear plugs when England take the field and he moves to his position at third man.

It is there that the giant speaker stacks of the sound system lie, blasting the latest hits to the school children that make up the majority of the crowd. With over 4,000 watts of bass pumping out it is not for the faint of heart. But then neither is Test cricket and that is what England turn their attentions to next.

Second day of four; West Indies A won toss

ENGLAND - First Innings

(Overnight: 293 for 4)

N Hussain st Hoyte b Lewis 159

A J Hollioake run out 48

R C Russell not out 32

A R Caddick c Collins b Lewis 5

A P Cowan b King 13

A R C Fraser not out 9

Extras (b2, lb17, w4, nb10) 33

Total (for 8 dec, 122.2 overs) 400

Fall (cont): 5-324, 6-346, 7-360, 8-368.

Did not bat: P C R Tufnell.

Bowling: McLean 23-4-86-1; King 21.2-3-84-3; Williams 20-4-46-0; Collins 20-5-62-0; Lewis 37-13-101-3; Hinds 1-0-2-0.

WEST INDIES A: L V Garrick, K F Semple, W W Hinds, *R I C Holder, F L Reifer, R L Hoyte, L R Williams, R N Lewis, N A M McLean, R D King, P Collins.

Umpires: N Malcolm and T Wilson.