Cricket: Lewis thrives on hard work

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THE CONTRASTING fortunes and performances of Chris Lewis and Mike Gatting during the tour of India and Sri Lanka have been high among the many surprises which have caught out followers of England this winter.

Before the tour began, the popular theory was that Lewis would be knocking on the door of the physiotherapist, Dave Roberts, the moment the pressure was on, while the indestructible Gatting would be eating spinners for breakfast.

But both beliefs, along with the one that England would give India a pasting, have been confounded over the last three months. Lewis has been just about England's healthiest and most willing player while Gatting has not only been regularly laid low with stomach complaints but has also under-achieved significantly against the tweakers.

On Monday in Colombo, with Sri Lanka building towards a first- innings score of 408 for 8 in reply to England's 380, Lewis bowled 19 overs with considerable pace and venom in the most oppressive heat. It was not a one-off, either, as he has been putting up similar performances throughout a tour in which he has improved in all departments. So far all he has suffered is a thigh strain in Madras, which stopped him from bowling but did not prevent his maiden Test century, and a cold before this game.

'Chris has been brilliant as far as his effort is concerned. He's tried every moment he's been on the field,' the England coach, Keith Fletcher, said. 'He is very talented and I've been delighted with the way he has performed on this tour. Even when he was doubtful for this game he wanted to get out there.'

While Nottinghamshire will hope this enthusiasm continues, Middlesex know that Gatting has always made the effort, whatever the game. Come next month and opposing counties might have several bowlers feeling a hamstring when Gatting arrives at the crease as he now has an extra incentive to batter them into submission.

This has not been a happy tour for him, after averaging only 36 in the Indian Tests. Gatting does not discuss his poor health, but Fletcher said: 'He'll be disappointed the way things have gone, but this is the first time he's been fully fit since we arrived in Calcutta (two months ago).'

Gatting himself blames the itinerary more. 'I made runs in Calcutta then didn't play until Madras where I was run out by short leg. A bit of bad luck like that, a bad decision and there are only four knocks left in a three-Test series.'

Which makes his second innings in this Test, which resumes today after yesterday's rest day, his last chance before the Ashes series against Australia. But he claimed: 'I don't feel under extra pressure. No one has a God-given right to play for England. It has been nice to be involved again but there are places up for grabs now. I will just have to make a good start to the season.'

England have turned down invitations to play in two one-day tournaments in November because they feel it will hamper preparations for the winter tour to the West Indies. The Test and County Cricket Board yesterday rejected trips to the Diamond Jubilee in Calcutta - in which most of the Test-playing countries are likely to take part - and the Sharjah Championship Trophy in the Gulf.

There was a warning to both teams from the umpires for 'sledging' on the third day of the match between England A and a Western Australia XI in Perth yesterday. Graham Lloyd scored his second century of the tour, reaching three figures off only 128 balls as England A raced to 300 for 5 declared. The home side, set 402 to win in just over a day, were 19 for 1 at the close.