Cricket: Croft has rare turn of fortune

England's off-spinner makes an early impression while batsmen wait for their opening

GUYANA may be in the grip of a drought, but that was good news for Robert Croft, whose response to the El Nino-driven weather patterns was to take 6 for 50, a feat almost unthinkable in the Caribbean, where off-spinners are virtually extinct.

Bowling far better than he did a fortnight ago against Trinidad and Tobago at Guaracara Park, Croft's performance will certainly have caught his captain's eye. Even if the likelihood of England playing two spinners in the Test next week is slight, Croft has proved that he is at least a viable alternative to Phil Tufnell, who has so far been too keen to resort to negative tactics.

Croft, who started this tour as England's second spinner, has not bowled nearly as much as he would have liked - something you take for granted when you are playing county cricket day in and day out. The strong sea breeze would have reminded him of Swansea - probably the only other first- class ground as close to the sea - and he quickly settled to cause the batsman problems with his dip, drift and occasional sharp turn. Only Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who as captain of Guyana, won the toss and batted, had any success in taking him on, and the slight left-hander twice lofted him for boundaries. Others, like Travis Dowlin tried, but perished in the attempt.

It all looked rather different in the morning, when England, hampered by a strong onshore breeze, looked destined for a long day in the field. Chris Silverwood, had other ideas however. He shrugged off the disappointment of seeing Nicholas de Groot caught off a no-ball in the seventh over and struck with his next ball, which Clayton Lambert edged to Michael Atherton at first slip.

Lambert's dismissal for four would have caused massive local disappointment. Over the last few days the 36-year old opener has received more column inches than the failing watermelon crop, which in these parts is the news that counts. The breakthrough, however, did not herald more wickets for either of the opening bowlers, who after the opening salvo were rotated for a while from the Sea Wall End.

Instead it was Croft, settling in for a long bowl upwind who took the next wicket when he had Keith Semple lbw, playing back to a drifter that skidded through off. After lunch, he proved nigh on unstoppable as he forced the teenaged prodigy Ramnaresh Sarwan to play on, and de Groot to glove a sweep shot to Jack Russell. Chanderpaul held fast against Croft's testing and teasing until a lapse of concentration on the stroke of tea saw him edge Adam Hollioake to Russell.

As the day wore on and Tufnell gave more than a passable imitation of a man who would rather be sipping cocktails by the pool - a wicket later perked him up - Croft went on his merry way. Tossing the ball up into the breeze, he first lured Neil McGarrell into lofting his drive to Mark Ramprakash at mid-on, before removing Mohindra Naganmootoo, with a quicker drifter that the batsman tried to cut.

With his brother gone, Vishal, who had been dropped early by Atherton, cut loose. Chancing his arm against the spinners, the all-rounder scored a remarkable half-century, as he and Colin Stuart added 49, the highest partnership of the day. In the end it needed Silverwood to end the irritation, which he did by bowling Naganmootoo for 55.

England, as their fine performance here suggests, are taking their preparations far more seriously these days, which means involving an ever burgeoning army of experts. Dean Riddle, the team's fitness consultant, has just been on a two-day fact-finding trip to the LA Dodgers' training camp near Miami, called Dodgertown. Apparently, Riddle's mission has been to learn new fielding drills, with particular emphasis on the motivation used by players when practising them.

How this all dovetails with the work of Stephen Bull, the team's sports psychologist out here is unclear, though Bull was undoubtedly having his work cut out when he was spotted having a lengthy chat with Andrew Caddick - probably the man most in need of his services - at square leg. Later Bull, a Dorset schoolboy cricketer and a member of Devizes Cricket Club, donned his whites to field as 12th man, while Nasser Hussain received treatment for a sore ankle.

Meanwhile, the serious business is around the corner, with the fourth Test starting at the Bourda on Friday. A week is a long time in which to pre-judge a Test pitch in the Caribbean, and so talk of playing two spinners is probably a little premature. Indeed, if anything, the performances of John Crawley, Mark Ramprakash and Adam Hollioake here are likely to be analysed more closely.

However, unless the wicket-keeper becomes an issue once more - and it is the easiest way of playing the extra bowler - it looks like a three- way race for the No 6 spot. And with England hoping, if not expecting, not to bat more than once in the game - they are currently nine without loss - any slip-ups in the first innings could prove costly.

Scoreboard

Guyana won toss

GUYANA - First Innings

C B Lambert c Atherton b Silverwood 4

N A de Groot c Russell b Croft 31

K F Semple lbw b Croft 19

R Sarwan b Croft 10

*S Chanderpaul c Russell b Hollioake 26

T Dowin c Cowan b Croft 1

N C McGarrell c Ramprakash b Croft 8

V Naganmootoo b Silverwood 55

M V Naganmootoo c Russell b Croft 0

R D King c Atherton b Tufnell 0

C E L Stuart not out 11

Extras (b9w1 nb9) 19

Total (87.2 overs) 184

Fall: 1-24 2-50 3-67 4-84 5-91 6-114 7-118 8-122 9-135.

Bowling: Cowan 10-3-18-0; Silverwood 15.2-1-45-2; Butcher 4-2-7-0; Tufnell 19-5-42-1; Croft 33-14-50-6; Ramprakash 1-1-0-0; Hollioake 5-1-13-1.

ENGLAND - First Innings

*M A Atherton not out 0

M A Butcher not out 7

Extras (w2) 2

Total (for 0, 2 overs) 9

To bat: J P Crawley, M R Ramprakash, N Hussain, A J Hollioake, R C Russell, R D B Croft, A P Cowan, C E W Silverwood, P C R Tufnell.

Bowling (to date): King 1-0-7-0; Stuart 1-0-2-0.

Umpires: P Monfort and E Hinds.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
football
Life and Style
food + drink
News
video
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial IT Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Commercial IT Solicitor - London We h...

Business Analyst / Project Manager - Financial Services

£40000 - £45000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: One of the mos...

Lead Business Analyst - Banking - London - £585

£525 - £585 per day: Orgtel: Lead Business Analyst - Investment Banking - Lond...

Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home