Cricket: Lewis provides the counterbalance: England's search for profit to set against tour loss

Click to follow
The Independent Online
WHEN England arrive at Heathrow tomorrow afternoon, Keith Fletcher's parting words to his squad may well be along the lines of 'don't call us, and we won't call you'. Only five of the 16 players who step from the plane, no doubt spruce and clean-shaven after a 12-hour flight, are likely to be swapping tour snaps in the Old Trafford dressing-room come the first Test against Australia in June.

The Sri Lankan epilogue stuck strictly to the Indian tour plot with the same failings that led to three crushing defeats there resulting in the humiliating one here: poor selection, inaccurate bowling, indisciplined batting and listless fielding.

The overpowering heat and humidity did not help but their effects were exaggerated because while Sri Lanka could rely on spinners pitter-pattering to the crease England had to depend on the sweaty hard labour of seam to lead their attack.

Chris Lewis did so heroically and his development and that of Graeme Hick have been the two plusses of the tour. Robin Smith's admirable demonstration that determination can conquer apparently insurmountable problems showed up the inability of others to learn from their mistakes. Paul Jarvis, benefiting from a good start, performed solidly throughout, even after being left out of the Bombay Test - one of several unfathomable selection decisions.

For the rest the tour is best forgotten. Even the fifth likely survivor, Alec Stewart, will do so mostly because of the failings of his captaincy rivals.

As for Sri Lanka, they have yet to prove they can win away from their island sweatbox but they have a top six to rival anything England can put out and a self-belief which the tourists let slip away from them in the haze of Calcutta.

Whatever the result in today's one-dayer, it will not disguise the truth that a team billed as the best prepared to leave our shores return with the worst results imaginable.

ENGLAND 12: R A Smith, A J Stewart (capt/wkt), G A Hick, N H Fairbrother, M W Gatting, C C Lewis, D A Reeve, P A J DeFreitas, J E Emburey, P W Jarvis, J P Taylor, I D K Salisbury.

SRI LANKA (probable): R S Mahanama, U C Hathurusinghe, A P Gurusinha, P A de Silva, A Ranatunga (capt), H P Tillakaratne, S T Jayasuriya, R S Kalpage, A M de Silva (wkt), C P H Ramanayake, G P Wickramasinghe.