Cricket: English centurions followed by poor foot soldiers: England falter after smart start to Caribbean tour while A team show ability to consolidate in South Africa

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England . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .340-7

Antigua

ALEC STEWART and Mike Atherton each scored centuries yesterday to launch England's Caribbean tour and their own first-wicket partnership in perfect style.

However, a potentially perfect day on the St John's Test ground was marred by a late and loud clatter of wickets.

From cruising at 275 for 1 against an Antiguan XI, England lost four men in the space of seven balls without adding a run. When Graeme Hick played an awful shot to give his wicket away, it was home fans rather than holidaymakers among a sparse crowd who were making all the noise.

Antigua's young attack had been made to look distinctly second-class while Stewart and Atherton were putting together a stand of 181 - ended only by Stewart's retirement with a slight hamstring injury.

Not even Graham Thorpe's fifth-ball dismissal for a single seemed likely to upset the script.

But then came the kind of England collapse that has been witnessed all too often in these parts.

Robin Smith, badly dropped at slip on seven, precipitated the free-fall from grace by giving the spinner, McChesney Simon, the charge and being bowled for 29.

What followed was an amazing treble-wicket maiden from Hamesh Anthony, the one 'name' in Antigua's line-up.

The young paceman, who toured England with West Indies in 1991 without playing a Test, removed Atherton for 108 with an athletic caught and bowled, won a debatable caught behind decision against Nasser Hussain two balls later and, with his fifth delivery, enticed Jack Russell into playing on.

Hick did nothing to help by holing out to midwicket for 10, straight after he had driven Simon over the rope at long-off. Ian Salisbury contributed only six before losing his off-stump to Randy Challenger, and the total then was 304 for seven. Andy Caddick came to the rescue with an unbeaten 40.

(First day of four; England won toss)

ENGLAND - First Innings

* M A Atherton c & b Anthony . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .108

A J Stewart ret hurt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .100

G P Thorpe lbw b Quinn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

R A Smith b Simon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27

G A Hick c Anthony b Simon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

N Hussain c C Joseph b Anthony . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

] R C Russell b Anthony . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

I D K Salisbury b Challenger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

A R Caddick not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40

S L Watkin not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

Extras . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .40

Total (for 7) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .340

Fall: 1-183 2-275 3-275 4-275 5-275 6-290 7-304.

To bat: A P Igglesden.

ANTIGUA: E Waldron, H Warner, D Joseph, * M Simon, A Walsh, H Anthony, J Joseph, C Joseph, V Smith, R Challenger, W Quinn.

Umpires: C Mack and P White.

(Photograph omitted)

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