Cricket: England depart with confidence high

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

MIKE ATHERTON and his England team-mates can cover themselves in glory over the next three months. That was the message from Mike Smith, the tour manager and former Test captain, as the party assembled last night at Gatwick for this morning's flight to the West Indies.

Atherton's squad start as outsiders to win a five-Test series in the Caribbean, but Smith, a member of the 1960 England team that triumphed 1-0 in the West Indies, said: 'I think they can win - and so do they. There would be no point in going otherwise.

'Everyone knows we are second favourites but nobody in the party will be 100 per cent happy unless we return home with a series victory. That's what we would regard as a successful tour.'

Four years ago, Graham Gooch's squad was given little chance before heading off to the Caribbean, but in the event they were unlucky to lose 2-1.

Now Gooch, who made himself unavailable this winter, has sent Atherton a good luck message for a tour that begins with a match against an Antigua XI a week tomorrow. The first one-day international is on 16 Feb with the first Test starting three days later.