Cricket: Lathwell celebrates his first steps on the comeback trail: Comfortable victory for England's second string despite some stirring all-round resistance from an itinerant Barbados fast bowler

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England A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .281-6

Eastern Transvaal . . . . . . . . . . . . .204-3

England A win by 77 runs

AT 21, most English cricketers are still dreaming of starting a Test career - but Mark Lathwell is already on the comeback trail with his 22nd birthday still a fortnight away.

At this rate he will be pushing Old Blue Eyes' record by the time he is 30, especially as he intends to continue to 'do it my way'. Given England's traditional treatment of mercurial genius, that may lead to his being cast aside as regularly as David Gower.

Yesterday, this shy cricketer did it his way with abandon. He struck 133 in 150 balls as England A cruised to their third successive win against an Eastern Transvaal side that treated Lathwell far more kindly than the England selectors have.

Having been ignored when in form, then picked when out of it, Lathwell ended last season with just one first-class fifty in its final three months. He freely admitted he had ceased to enjoy his cricket and, having begun this tour with two failures, he was in danger of enduring another two months of self-doubt.

Instead, it will be yesterday's opponents who should be reconsidering their aptitude for the game, especially a wicketkeeper in Bruce Randall that Lathwell would like to stick behind the stumps every time he goes out to bat. It was more a case of Mr Bean than Mr Randall, as the keeper dropped Lathwell off Jacobus Burger on six, dropped the ball when he should have run him out on 50, and missed a stumping on 63.

As the reprieves mounted, so did Lathwell's confidence as he made his last 83 in 68 balls, pulling ferociously and driving spinners and seamers alike back over their heads.

'I have come here with a determined effort to enjoy it,' a drained Lathwell said. 'I have only got one way of playing and I want to play that way.'

The attack, especially after Peter de Vaal's late withdrawal, may have been more akin to the ones he grew up on in the Devon League than a Test match, but the runs were still of great value to his vulnerable confidence, which 'took a while to come back. I was well past 50.'

It was not all easy, in the 50 overs of fodder were six very testing ones from Sam Skeete. Skeete, who normally opens the attack for Barbados, is as quick as anything England will encounter this tour, and he rattled through Hugh Morris' defence with his ninth ball. Lathwell, although survival rather than runs was the aim, held firm until Skeete retired suffering from flu.

With Mal Loye, Alan Wells and John Crawley - until he was run out backing up too far when Lathwell was on 99 - batting fluently, there was little chance of Eastern Transvaal overhauling England.

By the time their first wicket went for 61 in the 29th over there was more chance of finding an ANC flag in the local Afrikaans club, but there was time for Skeete to return and give England cause for thought as they ponder the tougher matches ahead. Skeete must have treated his flu with a dose of kryptonite for, with a mixture of luck, clean hitting and aggressive intent, he cracked 76 in 57 balls. He hit four huge sixes, one driven straight back over Martin McCague's head, before an anti-climactic run out ended the fun.

(Eastern Transvaal won toss)

ENGLAND A

M N Lathwell c Jordaan b C Norris. . . . . . . . . .133

* H Morris b Skeete. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11

M B Loye c Lerm b Marsh. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .41

J P Crawley run out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29

A P Wells not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37

] S J Rhodes b Loring. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

R D B Croft st Randall b Loring. . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

D G Cork not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

Extras (b3 lb3 nb6). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

Total (for 6, 50 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .281

Fall: 1-19 2-133 3-189 4-249 5-273 6-277.

Did not bat: D Gough, M J McCague, P M Such.

Bowling: Skeete 6-0-14-1; Burger 10-1-49-0; Jordaan 10-1-30-0; Loring 7-0-61-2; Marsh 10-0-61-1; C Norris 7-0-60-1.

EASTERN TRANSVAAL

W Radford c Loye b Such. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39

A R Norris c Wells b Such. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .55

S M Skeete run out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .77

* C R Norris not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22

] B Randall not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

Extras (b1 lb2 w1 nb1). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

Total (for 3, 50 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .204

Fall: 1-62 2-133 3-186.

Did not bat: J Lerm, Tahir Jamal, T A Marsh, J E Burger, R Loring, L C R Jordaan.

Bowling: McCague 10-0-44-0; Gough 10-2-24-0; Cork 10-1-44-0; Croft 10-2-18-0; Such 10-0-71-2.

Umpires: B Lambson and D Orchard.

Rain washed out the scheduled first day's play in the inaugural Test match between Sri Lanka and the West Indies in Moratuwa yesterday. The rest day booked for tomorrow will not be taken.

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