Cricket: England fail to learn lessons in art of poise: The tourists stage their customary batting collapse as Malcolm underwhelms on his return

England . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .319

WI Board XI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .260-5

BY WAY of preparation for the final two Test matches, England's pit stop in Grenada has not been a conspicuous success. If the general idea was to brush up on the things they are not very good at, collapsing with the bat, bowling dross and dropping catches merely re-emphasised qualities they already possess in some abundance.

From an overnight 281 for 4 against a West Indies Board XI, England managed to shed their last six wickets for 18 runs in 10.2 overs, and Philip Tufnell later dropped a return catch off his own bowling. However, as Tufnell had not previously delivered a first- class over since 13 February, he was probably entitled to put this down to loss of memory.

If Tufnell's lack of cricket is even more mysterious, given the general dross served up by the seamers, then England's team selection and strategy here bear the stamp of a side who are not too far away from choosing their next XI with a pin and a blindfold.

Seven batsmen was puzzlingly over the top (unless they felt that a draw would bring a major boost to morale), but not only did they shove their Test match alternatives (Nasser Hussain and Matthew Maynard) down to the Lord Lucan positions at Nos 6 and 7, but by ludicrously employing a nightwatchman on Saturday night, they slipped down another notch to Nos 7 and 8. More appropriate positions would have been the number of runs they ended up with, six and two.

The only batsman with an excuse yesterday was Graham Thorpe, whose limp edge to first slip was followed by a trip to the doctor's, a diagnosis of tonsillitis, and a trip back to bed. It is fast reaching the point when England will only solve their Test match confusion if the sick list expands fast enough to leave them with only 11 fit men.

The last England visit to Grenada was from Len Hutton's 1954 side, who battled back to a 2-2 draw from 2-0 down in the series. However, not only does Mike Atherton's team have the slightly tougher task of recovering from 3-0 down with two to play, but neither are there too many Truemans, Baileys, Mays, and Tysons on this tour.

Grenada, laid-back to the point of not possessing a single traffic light, is an island of outstanding natural beauty, although the cricket ground, incongruously, is a severe blot on the landscape. Its backcloth is a gravel quarry hacked out of the hillside, and the sickly green perimeter fencing is the kind where you half expect to see 'Grenada FC Rules OK' daubed all over it.

The press box is ideally situated, facing directly out to sea, but anyone who cared to swivel their neck 90 degrees on Saturday would have seen some entertaining batting from Alec Stewart and Graeme Hick, a block-and-nudge performance from Mark Ramprakash, and further evidence that Robin Smith looks no closer to emerging from his slump.

Yesterday's subsequent collapse was not so much unexpected as de rigueur, and the bleak scenario then continued when Devon Malcolm's first two serious deliveries since returning after knee surgery were both wide long-hops. Both were crunched to the cover boundary by Phil Simmons.

If Malcolm's line subsequently improved, his pace was hardly frightening, and he was at his liveliest when he picked up a young boy's kite after it had grounded itself on the square. Malcolm got it airborne again, which was a bold thing to do considering that the last England cricketer to fly a kite over a ground on tour (DI Gower) got fined pounds 1,000.

Malcolm (1 for 57 off 12 overs) looked way short of readiness for the Barbados Test, and this also applied to the rest of the attack when the Board XI, 126 for 4 at tea, cut loose to add a further 134 runs for the loss of one more wicket in the final session.

The assault began with a cameo from Philo Wallace, whose batting is usually as volatile as his temperament, and who once got so upset at an umpiring decision that he even outdid Chris Broad - not only demolishing his own stumps, but the set at the other end as well.

Ridley Jacobs, who uses a bat (3lb 5oz) most people would struggle to pick up without risking a hernia, employed it to club six fours and a six in his 41, but the major damage was inflicted by Roland Holder.

Holder was the man dropped by Tufnell when he was on 14, and it was Tufnell (2 for 84 off 26 overs and also plagued by no-balls) who largely suffered for his own lapse as the Barbados captain went on to plunder a violent, unbeaten century.

SCOREBOARD FROM ST GEORGE'S

(Second day of four: WI Board XI won toss)

ENGLAND - First Innings

(Overnight: 281 for 4)

G P Thorpe c Campbell b Cummins . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16

S L Watkin c Wallace b Lewis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18

N Hussain b Lewis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

M P Maynard c Williams b Cummins . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

A P Igglesden st Browne b Lewis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

P C R Tufnell not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

D E Malcolm b Cummins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Extras (lb5 nb14) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19

Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .319

Fall (cont): 5-301 6-308 7-313 8-313 9-316.

Bowling: Cummins 21.5-0-82-3; Gibson

18-1-65-1; Antoine 15-1-54-1; Lewis 33-6-95-5; Simmons 6-1-18-0.

WEST INDIES BOARD XI

P V Simmons b Malcolm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18

S C Williams c Stewart b Watkin . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30

P A Wallace c Hick b Watkin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

* R I C Holder not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .108

S L Campbell c sub b Tufnell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

R D Jacobs b Tufnell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41

C O Browne not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18

Extras (b1 nb14) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15

Total (for 5) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .260

Fall: 1-40 2-62 3-100 4-121 5-174.

To bat: A C Cummins, E C Antoine, O D Gibson, R N Lewis.

Bowling: Malcolm 12-0-57-1; Igglesden

19-3-68-0; Tufnell 26-7-84-2; Watkin 11-0-43-2;

Hick 2-0-7-0.

Umpires: J W Holder and G Johnson.

(Photograph omitted)

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