Cricket: England omit unpredictable Lewis

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The Independent Online
CHRIS LEWIS'S talent is undeniable, but there is not much point having a Michelangelo in your team if what you basically want to do is get the ceiling emulsioned, and England yesterday delivered the clearest message yet that their patience is wearing thin by omitting him from the four-day match against Barbados starting at the Kensington Oval here this morning.

Lewis's record of under- achievement and an occasionally suspect attitude has largely been tolerated over the past three years on the basis that England clearly have a world- class all-rounder at their disposal when he puts his mind to it, but there is no doubt from this team selection that Lewis is currently outside the frame for the first Test match in Jamaica starting a week on Saturday.

Were this not the case, he would have been given the opportunity here to put a thus far disappointing tour behind him, and if Andrew Caddick's shin problem has cleared up in time for the Test, it is difficult now to find a place for him.

England's projected Test match line-up was always going to be reflected in the team for their final warm-up game, and with Devon Malcolm, Angus Fraser and Philip Tufnell all playing against Barbados, they will presumably be joined by Caddick for the Test match. Should England decide not to play a spinner, Lewis might still sneak in, but a more dependable choice on the evidence so far would be Steve Watkin of Glamorgan.

The fact that it is not easy to jettison someone of Lewis's class was underlined by Mike Atherton admitting yesterday that although the team had been selected over dinner the previous evening, he had spent a night sleeping on it before confirming Lewis's omission.

England's next engagement after this match is the first one- day international here on Wednesday, which is partly why Alan Igglesden is playing over the next four days rather than taking an unassailable lead for the Claude Rains trophy, an intangible award for the tour's invisible man.

With Caddick likely to be unfit, Igglesden may be considered as a better option for the one-dayer than Malcolm, and needs the work here after missing the last two matches. However, Atherton was - encouragingly - keen to point out that the Test matches were still the priority.

'This is the sort of tour on which all 17 players might be required for the Test series, so we felt it important for him to play here.' Atherton also acknowledged, from painful first-hand experience in India last winter, that it is no good either to have players hanging around for weeks on end with no meaningful cricket.

England's batting order against Barbados means that Mark Ramprakash is earmarked to bat at No 3 in the Tests, with Graeme Hick at No 5, which is probably the sensible option, if hardly a vote of confidence in Hick. Graham Thorpe has also emerged as the choice at No 6 ahead of Matthew Maynard and Nasser Hussain, although the Surrey left-hander needs runs here to make certain.

The West Indies yesterday announced their squads for the first two one-day internationals, and, as expected, it is bursting with neither new boys nor spinners. No side in the world remains as faithful to its older sweats than they do.

ENGLAND (v Barbados): M A Atherton (capt), A J Stewart, M R Ramprakash, R A Smith, G A Hick, G P Thorpe, R C Russell (wkt), A R C Fraser, A P Igglesden, P C R Tufnell, D E Malcolm.

WEST INDIES SQUADS: (v England, first Test, Jamaica, 19-24 Feb): R B Richardson (capt), D L Haynes, P V Simmons, B C Lara, C L Hooper, K L Arthurton, J C Adams, J Murray (wkt), C E L Ambrose, A C Cummins, W K M Benjamin, K C G Benjamin, C A Walsh. (v England, first two one-day internationals, Barbados and Jamaica, 16 and 26 Feb): R A Harper for J R Murray.

(Photograph omitted)