Cricket: Illingworth gives up on Malcolm

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The Independent Online
Devon Malcolm has been occupying the England management's thoughts once more, but not for much longer. After several fruitless attempts on this tour to persuade Malcolm to adjust his action - culminating in his unscheduled practice session on Sunday - Raymond Illingworth and Peter Lever, the bowling coach, have decided to give up the ghost. They have effectively told England's fastest bowler he can bowl how the heck he wants.

It is an extraordinary state of affairs and could prove either a master- stroke of psychology or damaging to Malcolm's morale. Lever has been asking Malcolm to remain more upright in his delivery stride, which is designed to increase speed and accuracy. Lever explained: "I thought Devon would be capable of changing, but this is not the case. We now accept he will bowl as he has been for the past 10 years. As he doesn't listen, I might as well spend more time with the other five quick bowlers. Devon has one great asset - his pace - but the rest of his cricket is a nonentity."

Illingworth, who has never been an unreserved admirer of Malcolm's bowling, was even more forthright: "The way he is bowling at the moment, he wouldn't frighten me, let alone the South Africans. Now he is one of six seamers. If he wants to be picked for the Test matches, he must show me he is among the best three or four." Malcolm had no opportunity to frighten anybody yesterday, either, after torrential rain washed out the final day of England's match against an Invitation XI in Soweto.

Michael Atherton, however, believes his side are shaping up well and is convinced the players' collective spirit will sustain them in times of difficulty. Apart from Malcolm, Robin Smith is the other senior player causing most concern, having scored 49 runs in his four innings. Atherton says Smith will be given every opportunity to recapture his form and will play in all the matches before the first Test begins on 16 November. It is a tacit indication that Smith's Test place in secure for the time being, regardless of how few runs he scores.

TOUR MATCH (Soweto): England 332 (A J Stewart 94, J P Crawley 85, M A Atherton 59, M J G Davis 4-68) and 282 for 5 dec (A J Stewart 101no, G A Hick 55) v SA Invitation XI 210 (W J Cronje 56, R K Illingworth 6-76) & 25 for 1. Match Abandoned England drew with SA Invitation XI.

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