Cricket: England reduced to one-day wonderers

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AMID all the various toasts during Thursday's champagne party, it would be surprising if the West Indies had not raised a glass or two to the Test and County Cricket Board's overseas tour committee. In terms of regrouping for a Test series which is already threatening to be a forlorn mission, England need the next fortnight about as much as they need ski boots and woolly hats.

Today's one-day international is the first of four in a row, and high profile, full-house cricket though it might be, the next meaningful opportunity to try to apply some sticking plaster to the slow puncture does not arrive for 13 days, when England warm up for the second Test in Guyana with a four-day game against a President's X1.

There always has to be an element of give and take in a tour itinerary, but in this particular department (Australia, for example, were able to concentrate on nothing but first- class cricket between Tests last summer) it is usually case of Lord's giveth, but rarely taketh away.

While England will still regard the one-dayers as important in terms of building confidence, their crushing victory in the first one- dayer in Barbados is a reminder that these are two entirely different forms of cricket and to plonk them side by side is a bit like putting a Happy Eater in the Michelin guide.

The most significant character in today's game, at least as far as England is concerned, is Angus Fraser, whose presence for the rest of the Test series is crucial to their prospects of recovery. Fraser, who missed the first match because of a hairline finger fracture, is perhaps the only bowler in the squad capable of reining in Brian Lara when the West Indian left-hander is in the mood.

Having seen the way Chris Lewis and Andrew Caddick were butchered on the second day, England's anxiety to get Fraser back into action is hardly surprising, and the Middlesex seamer will play with strapping on his left hand in the field, and if he is required to bat.

Fraser does not have happy memories of the other one-day international he appeared in on this ground, on the 1990 tour, when Ian Bishop hit him for four to win the game off the final ball. Fraser, never one to disguise his feelings, was still hanging his head in mid-pitch by the time they were organising the presentation ceremony.

It is slightly less of an important game for Robin Smith, although England's 'banker' against the West Indian quicks made 0 and 2 in the Test, and more importantly, was out in the second innings to Courtney Walsh by doing what he scarcely, if ever, does - taking his eye off a short one.

Mike Atherton, the captain, said that Smith had felt confident enough before the Test, but like all batsmen 'needed a bit of arse to get over the first few overs'. Smith himself is cheery enough, and was joking the other day about how much his all-round batting has improved in the Test. 'Didn't get out to a spinner once' he said.

Caddick misses the match today because of an inflamed toe that has now, apparently, spread up the leg and requires a course of antibiotics.

Caddick also missed the first one- dayer because of shin soreness, but Fraser's return allows England to omit Devon Malcolm, who can spend the day instead counting his bruises and pondering on how much he would like to be bowling when Courtney Walsh is next required to bat in a Test match.

England's one other change from the first one-day international is to bring in Nasser Hussain at the expense of Graham Thorpe. Different form of combat though this may be, Thorpe's omission can certainly be construed as a pointer to the next Test match.

ENGLAND (for second one-day international v West Indies today): *Atherton (capt), Stewart, Smith, Hick, Maynard, Hussain, Lewis, Watkin, Igglesden, Tufnell, Fraser.