Cricket / Fourth Test: Richardson's insertion difficult to justify

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The Independent Online
WITH A record of eight victories against the solitary defeat in his 13 Tests at the helm, it is churlish to be too critical of Richie Richardson's baffling attitude to the important matter of the toss.

He has defied what appears to be cricketing logic throughout this series. He chose to bowl first in Georgetown when the pitch was at its best, and England reached 245 before losing their third wicket.

In Port of Spain, he repeated his decision of a year earlier that led to an all-out total of 127 against Pakistan, and the outcome might have been similar had not Mike Atherton dropped the chance that allowed Desmond Haynes to escape when he was seven. As it was, Haynes and his captain required all their accumulated experience to exist through the first session.

Here, all recent evidence indicated he should have padded up immediately and set himself for one of the many big scores to which he has helped himself at Kensington Oval. In appearance and reality, this was the best surface of the series, easy of pace, true of bounce.

It has been the same all season, during which the Barbados captain, Roland Holder, paid dearly for the habitual practice of bowling first created by the success of the formidable West Indian fast-bowling quartet in the 1980s.

Barbados conceded first- day totals of 323 for 4 to the Leeward Islands and 325 for 7 to Jamaica in the Red Stripe Cup, and themselves reached 289 for 6 in the earlier tour match against England.

Richardson's attitude, expressed in an interview after the coin was spun, was that it really did not matter what he did. In his two years in the job, it had not - until now. There was one sound argument for his choice this time. England arrived here clearly still shell-shocked after the shattering events in Port of Spain, and the quicker he could get Curtly Ambrose back at them again the better.

It was an understandable theory but this is a pitch to break the hearts of even the greatest bowlers, the kind Kensington was known for between 1955 and 1977 when 10 of the 12 Tests were high- scoring draws.

Neither Atherton nor Alec Stewart were going to miss the chance of reviving England's pride before so many of their supporters.