Cricket: England fight to find the right formula: Lavender excels as Western Australia prove too strong for ring-rusty tourists in a new format that offers little novelty

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Western Australia 248-5; England 197. Western Australia win by 51 runs A one-day match split into four quarters of 25 overs and each containing a drinks break throws up all kinds of possibilities. England did at least manage to avoid an innings defeat, but they were thoroughly outplayed.

They will take succour from the thought that, in 1986/87, Mike Gatting's team started disastrously but metamorphosised into a side that won the Ashes and every one-day pot going. Four years ago, though, Graham Gooch's side lost early games - and just kept on losing.

Defeat in a single limited-overs match scarcely represents a crisis. Indeed, of principal interest was the new format which, on first inspection, did not appear any more appetising than normal limited-overs fare. As experiments go, it did not have a revolutionary impact. The customary tempo of one-day matches remained undisturbed - four an over for the first 25 overs, six an over for the last 25. Well, Western Australia managed that at least.

The frequency with which the teams walked off the field was matched only by the frequency with which the drinks trolley was wheeled on to it. Somehow, the format does not suggest permanence because there is only so much tinkering you can do with cricket's laws and traditions to disguise a humdrum one-day match.

Mike Atherton was certainly unimpressed. 'It is too early to say whether four-quarters cricket will be successful,' he said, 'but let's say I'm happy the remaining one-day games on this tour will be played in the normal way.'

Daryl Foster, the WA coach who does the same job for Kent, thinks the concept would work well in England, particularly in the NatWest Final, where the county winning the toss and batting second has such an advantage.

There was nothing new about what the match told England, either, namely that Australian state cricket bulges with talented batsmen. Mark Lavender, at 27 almost middle-aged alongside the phalanx of gifted strokemakers barely out of their teens, sustained the WA innings with 83. He sounds an interesting chap, too. Apprently, he missed the Sheffield Shield final a couple of years ago with a broken ankle after leaping from a first-floor window to escape a boyfriend bent on revenge.

Lavender clearly likes his nightlife, because, after struggling to an interim score of 28 not out, he accelerated impressively after dark.

Lavender should have been caught at 64 when he swept Graeme Hick towards Devon Malcolm at long leg. But, in one of those priceless moments that follow Malcolm around in the field, the ball looped in the air and landed a yard in front of his feet. He did not move. At the best of times, Malcolm makes Mr Magoo look like he has X-ray eyes, but the dazzling combination of hundreds of high-powered bulbs and his own contact lenses conspired to render him momentarily blind.

Poor old Devon put down another catch soon afterwards and, with Gatting and Tufnell also spilling chances, England's fielding looked alarmingly vulnerable and immobile.

England are still shaking off the rust. Malcolm was the pick of the bowlers, without ever reaching maximum velocity on the pitch that should suit him better than any other in Australia. Malcolm's real triumph, though, came at the end of the innings, when he was promoted to No 10 in the batting order.

That is nosebleed territory for him.

The proper batsmen all struggled with their timing and placement and the match was effectively settled when the top four went in the second quarter.

John Crawley aimed across the line, Hick played a couple of sweet shots before slashing to gully, Gatting half-hit a pull and Atherton chipped a return catch. England were behind - 83 for 4 to 90 for 1 - at the dinner interval and the Warriors, as Western Australia have taken to calling themselves, then disappeared into the night sky with a further 158 from their final 25 overs.

Graham Thorpe and Craig White, plus the tail, were never going to get close and WA were not flattered by the margin of 51 runs. Atherton said England will get better, and they must.

No need to panic just yet, though. This, in the context of the tour, was fairly meaningless and the real business starts tomorrow with the start of the four-dayer against the Warriors.

For this, England will play all six fit batsmen, but have resisted the temptation to field their potential Test attack. Darren Gough has a match off and there is no room for a specialist spinner. Martin McCague and Joey Benjamin both get a game. They should enjoy it, because they are likely to be unemployed for most of the tour.

ENGLAND v WA (Perth, four days, starting tomorrow): * Atherton, Gooch, Hick, Thorpe, Gatting, Crawley, Rhodes, DeFreitas, McCague, Benjamin, Malcolm.

England's South African tour itinerary, page 39 ---------------------------------------------------------------- SCOREBOARD FROM THE WACA ---------------------------------------------------------------- (England won toss) WESTERN AUSTRALIA M Lavender not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . .28 T M Moody c DeFreitas b Malcolm. . . . . . . .5 * D R Martyn not out. . . . . . . . . . . . .50 Extras (lb6 w1). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 Total (for 1, 25 overs). . . . . . . . . . . 90 Fall: 1-7.

ENGLAND * M A Atherton c and b Moody. . . . . . . . .28 J P Crawley b Coulson. . . . . . . . . . . . .1 G A Hick c Veletta b Julian. . . . . . . . . 27 M W Gatting c Hogg b Moody. . . . . . . . . . 7 G P Thorpe not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . .15 C White not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 Extras (nb2). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Total (for 4, 25 overs). . . . . . . . . . . 85 Fall: 1-2 2-43 3-62 4-79 WESTERN AUSTRALIA (continued) M Lavender c Atherton b Malcolm. . . . . . . 83 * D R Martyn c Tufnell b White. . . . . . . .51 G B Hogg c Rhodes b Gough. . . . . . . . . . 34 M R J Veletta not out. . . . . . . . . . . . 35 R Kelly c Gatting b White. . . . . . . . . . .8 A Gilchrist not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Extras (lb10 w1 nb4). . . . . . . . . . . . .15 Total (for 5, 50 overs). . . . . . . . . . .248 Fall (cont): 2-98 3-181 4-192 5-217.

Did not bat: B T Julian, J Stewart, C Coulson, B A Reid.

Bowling: DeFreitas 10-1-48-0; Malcolm 10-1-37-2; White 10-1-55-2; Gough 10-0-47-1; Tufnell 6-0-32-0; Hick 4-0-19-0.

ENGLAND (continued) G P Thorpe c Moody b Martyn. . . . . . . . . .35 C White c Gilchrist b Martyn. . . . . . . . . 35 S J Rhodes c Martyn b Stewart. . . . . . . . .14 P A J DeFreitas not out. . . . . . . . . . . .21 D Gough run out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 D Malcolm b Coulson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 P C R Tufnell b Coulson. . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Extras (lb12 nb2). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14 Total (45.5 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . .197 Fall (cont): 5-124 6-150 7-150 8-176 9-193 Bowling: Reid 6-1-16-0; Coulson 6.5-2-31-3; Julian 6-2-22-1; Moody 10-1-28-2; Martyn 7-0-41-2; Stewart 10-0-47-1 ---------------------------------------------------------------- Umpires: B Rennie and R Emerson.

---------------------------------------------------------------- (Photograph omitted)

Comments