Cricket: Botham glows in the gloom

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The Independent Online
For England, it is a pity that all the one-day internationals were not played before their Test matches against Pakistan. If they had been, England might not have lost the fifth Test and the series, at any rate not so whimperingly.

The relevance of one-day cricket to Test matches is often limited. But the events at Trent Bridge on Thursday did have such a relevance, if only England's new team manager Keith Fletcher can perceive it, and so has the fourth international, so far as it has been allowed to go by the rain, which has left England needing another 190 off 48 overs today.

In the Texaco Trophy one- dayers this summer, England have batted with the utmost enterprise. If Ian Botham's launch of England's reply last evening was the most notable example of all, the team as a whole have been as positive as could be in their batting during the four games, which was not the case - even when making allowances - in the Oval Test. For then their first innings was fatally congealing, before Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram began their aerodynamic miracles.

In the one-dayers Graeme Hick and Neil Fairbrother have batted like the leading stroke-players they are in county cricket. At Trent Bridge they were at their best: Fairbrother scored 62 off 63 balls, and Hick 63 from 42 in the sort of fusillade that the cricket public had so confidently expected of him last year, in vain.

It is not sufficient to say that batting in one-day cricket is a completely different exercise. The field is indeed spread out, not claustrophobically close; the bowling, usually, does not include those lifting chest-high balls which can be the stock delivery of the most potent attacks, those of the Pakistanis and West Indians. But the bowling is not significantly less in speed for being in a one-day international.

So there has to be something else to account for the phenomenon that Hick averages 18 in Test cricket, and 38 in one-dayers before this game, and Fairbrother, in an even more gross disparity, 8 in Tests and 42 in the others. And the explanation has to be found, since both batsmen have been given winter contracts, with the clear implication that England are going to take them to India, in place of Allan Lamb, and - possibly - David Gower.

The secret, if it is one, is that Hick in internationals is entirely focused on the ball: he sees it, then reacts in his 'natural' way, although what is called natural in this context is actually highly conditioned. He is confident, and fluid of movement, his proper self.

In Tests, on the other hand, Hick is so manifestly full of apprehension that he is frozen rigid at the crease, and remains so until his release is merciful. He is worried about the consequences of another failure and the public and press reaction to such a failure, or else concerned about the adequacy of his technique, and the latest experiment he is making against the short ball. In one- dayers there is no time to worry, so Hick puts his front foot down the pitch and plays; in Tests he is anything but focused on the ball.

There may well be circumstances when Hick is exposed by the best of Test bowling, yet he should still score many more Test runs than he does. Fairbrother also has his technical deficiency: he stands up in the drive, and opens the face of his bat and hits the ball square, which is not a method to succeed against high pace. But again he could have done better than he has, if he had not been frozen with nerves, and he could still succeed in the Tests in India, given luck and - of course - the right mental approach.

In yesterday's international, bedevilled as it was by rain, there was as much interest before the start as there was in the game, until Botham's adventurism. Graham Gooch decided to rest the right hand, which was poisoned in Australia in 1990-1, and had been damaged again on Friday and aggravated just before the start. Stewart was therefore made captain for the fourth time, although this was the first time he had led without keeping wicket as well, and while he was leg-before for a duck, he set an energetic example in the field, taking two catches at mid-on, the second of them missable.

Richard Blakey kept wicket presentably, albeit in the style of a batsman-keeper rather than a specialist. He enjoyed a highlight when Salim Malik, impeded by a thigh strain which required a runner, moved out to drive and was stumped by Blakey. It was only the 29th stumping made by an England keeper in 206 internationals. A 30th went begging when he missed Miandad off Illingworth.

Pakistan were unfortunate in that rain slowed the outfield after they had decided to bat first for the first time in this series. The occasional showers may have freshened the pitch too, for it seamed a little and demanded watchfulness. Pakistan were 78 for 1 at the half-way stage, from 25 overs, and needed all the acceleration that Malik, Miandad and Akram could provide.

Amir Sohail was again the better of Pakistan's openers. After square-driving Lewis, he clipped the next ball behind square for four as well, and not in the air, as he would have done at the start of this tour. Then he moved abnormally far across his stumps, but not now: Sohail could become a great player if he maintains this learning curve.

Ramiz Raja, however, has happily maintained his habit of whipping across the line, which is fine on hard pitches. Yesterday, when doing it against seam movement, he was never at home, taking 30 overs for his 23. It was Malik who had to break the chains, in a limited way. Then Miandad bottom- handed to his 50, moving across the stumps to leg-glance the penultimate ball, like Viv Richards had once done at Lord's.

The batting of the day, though, was to be found in the four balls Botham faced. Opening instead of Gooch, he crashed the first ball from Akram a shade loosely for four, but cover-drove the second off his back foot with certainty. His third shot was the best-timed, a square-drive past the diving Shoaib at cover. The fourth was almost caught by the same sub, in an outstretched right hand, but Botham deserved survival. In its brief way, for its nerve, his four- ball of fireworks was as extraordinary as anything he has done.

(Pakistan won toss)

PAKISTAN

Aamir Sohail c Stewart b DeFreitas 20

(43 min, 35 balls, 3 fours)

Ramiz Raja c Stewart b Botham 23

(108 min, 74 balls)

Salim Malik st Blakey b illingworth 48

(76 min, 76 balls, 3 fours)

* Javed Miandad not out 50

(92 min, 60 balls, 5 fours)

Inzamam-ul-Haq c Blakey b Reeve 16

(24 min, 25 balls, 2 fours)

Wasim Akram b DeFreitas 23

(42 min, 26 balls, 2 fours)

Naved Anjum not out 4

(8 min, 4 balls)

Extras (b2 lb7 w11) 20

Total (for 5, 202 min, 50 overs) 204

Fall: 1-32 (Sohail), 2-91 (Ramiz), 3-102 (Salim), 4-137 (Inzamam), 5-189 (Wasim).

Did not bat: +Moin Khan, Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed, Aqib Javed.

Bowling: DeFreitas 10-2-39-2 (w4) (6-2-16-1 2-0-6-0 2- 0-17-1); Lewis 10-0-49-0 (w3) (5-0-15-0 2-0-16-0 3-0- 18-0); Botham 10-1-33-1 (w2) (one spell); Reeve 10-1- 31-1 (w2) (6-1-14-0 3-0-9-1 1-0-8-0); Illingworth 10-0- 43-1 (one spell).

Progress: Rain delayed start until noon, match reduced to 50 overs. Lunch: 41 for 1 (Ramiz 9, Salim 6), 15 overs. Restart: 1.47pm. Rain stopped play: 1.56- 2.07pm, 49 for 1 (Ramiz 13, Salim 10), 17.5 overs. 50: 70 min, 18.2 overs. 100: 119 min, 31.4 overs. RSP: 3.25- 4.10pm, 136 for 3 (Javed 17, Inzamzm 16), 39 overs. RSP: 4.50pm, tea taken, 187 for 4 (Javed 39, Wasim 22), 47.2 overs. Bad light delayed restart, 5.40pm. 200: 199 min, 49.4 overs. Innings closed: 5.55pm.

Javed 50: 91 min, 59 balls, 5 fours.

ENGLAND

I T Botham not out 14

(11 min, 5 balls, 3 fours)

* A J Stewart lbw b Waqar 0

(8 min, 5 balls)

R A Smith not out 0

(1 min, 2 balls)

Extras (w1) 1

Total (for 1, 11 min, 2 overs) 15

Fall: 1-15 (Stewart).

To bat: N H Fairbrother, A J Lamb, G A Hick, R J Blakey, C C Lewis, D A Reeve, P A J DeFreitas, R K Illingworth.

Bowling: Wasim 1-0-14-0 (w1); Waqar 1-0-1-1.

Progress: Bad light delayed start of innings until 6.20pm. BLSP: 6.30pm. Restart: 6.59pm. BLSP: 7.0pm - play abandoned for day.

Umpires: J H Hampshire and K E Palmer.

(Photograph omitted)

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