Cricket: Experienced player 'would not have made up the gulf'

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Keeping a sense of perspective in the aftermath of England's shattering performance in Trinidad cannot have been easy for Mike Atherton, but he tried manfully yesterday.

'I knew there would be tough times ahead when we picked our squad for this tour,' he said, dealing with the obvious question about the lack of old hands like David Gower and Allan Lamb. 'I asked myself whether I would regret not bringing an experienced player if we were getting badly beaten?

'The answer then was no and it is still no. I don't believe an experienced player would have made up the gulf between the two sides.'

Not surprisingly he was keener to dwell on the first part of the Test rather than its climax, and drew some comfort from England's performance there. 'A lot of positive things came out of the first three days. If we can play as we did then over four or five days then the results will not be far away,' he said. 'We showed some fighting qualities for three days, but the last month of the tour is going to be very hard work. The players have to stick together and show a lot of spirit.'

While Atherton was concentrating on his technique against fast questioning, Lord's was also mounting a rearguard action, with Tim Lamb, the Test and County Cricket Board's cricket secretary, presenting the case for the defence. 'Obviously people will be asking what went wrong and what we are going to do now,' he said.

'I don't think, however, that there is any use in grapeshot criticism - for everyone to go over the top asking for heads to roll. The truth is that a new structure has been put in place. We have had one year of four-day championship cricket and hopefully in time that will bear fruit.'

He dismissed claims that the tour party had been badly prepared: 'The fact is that we had a week longer in the West Indies at the start of this tour than we had four years ago.'

As well as perspective, Atherton's sense of humour has remained intact. Asked about the chances of avoiding a 5-0 whitewash he said ruefully: 'This result reduces our possibilities a bit.'