CRICKET: Malcolm can provide the antidote to anticlimax: As the international season draws to a close at Old Trafford today, Martin Johnson suggests a time and a place for one-day game

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND and South Africa conclude the international business of the summer at Old Trafford today, and if another full-house crowd receives the same amount of entertainment as the one at Edgbaston on Thursday, then they deserve our deepest sympathy.

It does not necessarily follow, of course, that one desperately dull limited overs match should be followed by another one, and the firmer pitch at Old Trafford should offer more scope for dashing strokeplay. The only dash at Edgbaston was a failed one, when a streaker, either inebriated through too many visits to the beer tent, or anaesthetised by the cricket, collapsed over the boundary boards before he could make it on to the outfield.

However, neither does it follow that on more conducive pastures than the Edgbaston compost heap, a run feast will necessarily be on today's menu. These two sides, and South Africa in particular, are pretty jaded, and it would have been hard in any event to avoid a deflationary hiss after the compelling drama of the final Test match at The Oval.

In some ways, The Oval and Edgbaston provided a happy reminder that Test cricket, with all its intricate plots and sub-plots, will never be replaced by a game of formularised rounders. On the other hand, neither is there any reason why the one-day international, properly scheduled, should not provide a diverting and entertaining day out, however limited its demands (contents of the cool box excepted) on spectators' cerebral regions.

It is now obvious that plonking the one-dayers at the back end of the summer is a recipe for tired anti-climax, and the Test and County Cricket Board may have missed a trick this summer by not arranging a triangular one-day tournament involving both New Zealand and South Africa in the middle of the two three-Test tours. Still, another reason why today's match should be perkier than the first is the likely presence of two bowlers for whom Edgbaston's sluggish turf was deemed unsuited, Devon Malcolm and Allan Donald.

Both of them have crowd appeal, and the naive but refreshing notion that in one-day cricket it should not be an automatic fining offence to bowl to get people out.

Besides anything else, the notion of Malcolm being asked to bowl a niggardly line and length without any slip fielders is laughable, and nothing sums up the essential difference between Test and one-day cricket more than the fact that someone who has just taken 9 for 57 should be dropped for the next game.

It will also be interesting to see which bowler, if any, England now decide to drop in order to accommodate Malcolm. If their only real interest is in winning the game, and pocketing the Texaco swag, then Malcolm doesn't get in, but if - as they should - they want to gather further intelligence on Dominic Cork, Chris Lewis and Shaun Udal, then either Phillip DeFreitas or Darren Gough (both certainties for the winter tour) may be asked to stand down.

One player who will not be rested is Graeme Hick, whose summer metamorphosis is such that now he can barely wait to get stuck into the likes of Donald.

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