Cricket: Blatant lack of basic instinct

Henry Blofeld in Bridgetown says that England's bowlers are letting the side down
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The Independent Online
THE onslaught launched by the West Indies' openers, Clayton Lambert and Philo Wallace, provided the most glorious entertainment, but at the same time it underlined the dreadful lack of professional competence in so much of England's cricket.

This match is being played on a superb batting pitch, the sort of pitch on which exuberant West Indian batsmen are likely to destroy any attack if given half a chance. At the start of the innings the England bowlers played into their hands. The essential requirement was tight, disciplined bowling to a strict length and line which would allow the batsmen no freedom. The bowlers knew that Lambert and Wallace were both dashers and they had to try to frustrate them into losing patience and getting themselves out.

This lesson should have been learned from Trinidad, where both Dean Headley and Andrew Caddick were so inconsistent and Angus Fraser provided the example and the inspiration. If Headley and Caddick took the field at the start of the West Indies' innings without knowing what was expected, the two coaches, David Lloyd and John Emburey, had not done their job. Of course, the two bowlers did know what was wanted, but once again they proved to be woefully incompetent.

Caddick cut as insecure a figure on the cricket field as one has ever seen. At his best, he is a splendid bowler; on Friday evening he was at his worst: a nervous beginner. It may be that when he feels under great pressure he suffers from stage fright. Whatever it is, his control disappears and he is a liability.

He again let England down badly at a crucial moment, and there will be further serious question marks about his long-term future at this level. In the burning crucible of Test cricket which Kensington Oval became on Friday evening, the first requirement is for players who can be relied upon to produce their best under the greatest pressure.

As this tour has gone on, one has become more and more worried by Headley. For all his undoubted talent, he is such an untidy bowler and he appears to do so little about it. To start with, he has been completely unable to cure his no-ball problem - something for which the coaches must share some of the blame. His first over was a disgrace. Half-volleys and long hops proliferated, there were two no-balls and 11 runs were presented to Lambert and Wallace on a silver salver with watercress round it. His first two overs cost 19 runs and he appeared to have forgotten everything he has ever learned about control. He raced in as if he was a genuine fast bowler who wanted to teach the two new openers a lesson.

Headley is not a genuine fast bowler; he never has been and never will be. He is a fast medium seamer whose greatest asset should be his control. On Friday, his thinking was as wild and uncontrolled as his bowling. When he came back for his second spell, he again charged in mindlessly to Wallace who, with an uncomplicated disdain, kept driving him back over his head for four. Headley's stupid reaction was to allow himself to get involved in a slanging match with Wallace.

Headley was lucky to have the last word when Wallace, although a long way forward, was given out lbw. It was unforgivable that Mike Atherton seemed to join in the general hostility to Wallace. I hope the management spoke strong words to Headley overnight. He should have been told to pull himself together and get on with the job he was brought here to do. Thankfully, the evidence on the third morning suggested this might have happened. He was given five overs in which he collected the crucial scalp of Brian Lara and gave away only nine runs.

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