Cricket: Ambrose hopes improve

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THE TIME will inevitably come when West Indies cricket will awake from its present, prolonged nightmare but, for the moment, it remains constantly dreadful. Distraught after the descent to their lowest-ever total of 51 and heavy defeat by Australia in the first Test on Monday, developments since have been discouraging.

Earlier news that Shivnarine Chanderpaul would not, after all, be fit enough for the second Test, starting today at Sabina Park, that Carl Hooper would not be back from Australia in time and that Curtly Ambrose was carrying an inflamed knee has been followed by another injury. Fast bowler Reon King fell heavily on his shoulder during practice on Thursday and was ruled out of the match after a medical examination.

The selectors immediately called for Corey Collymore, a 22-year-old Barbadian who has impressed in his debut season. He is on standby, but Ambrose underwent a thorough workout yesterday without apparent discomfort and he and his long-time partner Courtney Walsh appear set to again spearhead the West Indies bowling. The pitch is unlikely to do them any favours and Steve Waugh's assessment had an ominous ring to West Indian ears.

"Unless I'm a bad judge, it is going to turn square," he said. "I think it's going to be bouncy on the first day but it's only a matter of time before it starts spinning big time."

It has prompted a shift in traditional West Indian policy, with the inclusion of the Jamaican off-spinner Nehemiah Perry, who is certain to play his first Test at the age of 30 in his 13th season of regional cricket. He will be supported by his fellow Jamaican Jimmy Adams, whose occasional left-arm spin earned him two wickets in Australia's second innings of the first Test.

At least it will not be flying at the batsmen's throats and skidding through at their ankles as it was last year when the first Test against England was abandoned after an hour because the pitch was deemed too dangerous.

WEST INDIES (from): B C Lara (capt), S L Campbell, S Ragoonath, D R E Joseph, L A Roberts, D Ganga, J C Adams, R D Jacobs, N O Perry, C E L Ambrose, C A Walsh, P T Collins, C O Collymore.

AUSTRALIA: S R Waugh (capt), M.J.Slater, M T G Elliott, J L Langer, M E Waugh, G S Blewett, I A Healy, S K Warne, J N Gillespie, S C G MacGill, G D McGrath.