Cricket: Malcolm misses peak as catching hits new trough: Atherton and Stewart make a solid start after poor England fielding allows Barbados's last-wicket pair to outstay their welcome

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Barbados 348; England 144-2

DEVON MALCOLM, who would run through a sightscreen if his captain asked him to (but who is not always guaranteed to hit one from 10 paces), was yesterday deprived of career-best bowling figures by an England fielding display not so much based around the Lilleshall school of excellence, as the St Trinians' playground.

Barbados, who five minutes before stumps on the opening day were coasting at 285 for 4, had nosedived to 299 for 9 a handful of overs into the second day, but the home team's last pair then put on 49 runs in a 65-minute comical interlude that contained any amount of aerial mis-hits into unattended pastures, and no fewer than six (five of them off Malcolm) dropped catches.

Happily, England's batting was more adhesive than their catching, finishing the second day on 144 for 2 in reply to the home team's 348. Alec Stewart made 47 before losing his middle stump to a careless, head-up drive, and Mark Ramprakash's equally airy shot against Glamorgan's new all-rounder, Ottis Gibson, ended in an edged catch behind. However, despite being hit on the helmet, Mike Atherton made a solid 71 not out on a pitch becoming increasingly unreliable in bounce.

Malcolm finished with 7 for 134 from 26 overs, rather more expensive than his best figures of 7 for 74 against an Australian XI in Hobart three years ago, and had that statistic been replaced in the record book by 8 for 134, it would have been a more apposite statistic with which to illustrate Malcolm's destructive but erratic style of bowling.

In another way, however, Malcolm did not quite deserve to take even seven wickets, as only a couple of them came by dint of good deliveries. Two batsmen played on, there was a leg-stump half-volley clipped to square leg, a dubious lbw and a long hop cut straight to backward point.

However, Malcolm's was, as ever, a wholehearted effort, and a reminder to his closest chum on this tour, Chris Lewis, that content counts for rather more than artistic impression at international level.

As was the case on the first day, more time (17 overs) was lost to rain yesterday, although such is the ferocity of the sun when the rain does stop, that play resumes almost at once. There is none of the familiar 'the umpires will look again at 3.30. . . ' droning over the Tannoy. In Guyana, mind, you are more likely to hear: 'The umpires will be looking again in July'.

After the rain had struck three balls into yesterday's proceedings, Malcolm added two more wickets to his overnight 5 for 93 in his first couple of overs, and when Alan Igglesden induced a slog to mid-on shortly afterwards, Barbados had lost three of their four remaining wickets for only 10 runs.

They should, in fact, have been all out for 299 when Sam Skeete spliced Malcolm vertically towards mid-on, and while Angus Fraser judged where it would land well enough, he made a total porridge of trying to catch it. If Malcolm has a temper (which he does not) Skeete would then have tested it by launching his next ball onto the pavilion roof over midwicket.

Robin Smith then missed two catches at square leg, Malcolm spilled the No 11, Dayne Maynard, off his own bowling, and when Skeete sent up another skier to mid- off, he was fortunate enough to find Fraser again underneath it. To undisguised mirth, from both local and English spectators alike, Fraser and ball once again ended up in a big heap on the floor.

Fraser, his shirt and flannels now sporting more brown patches than white ones, finally replaced Malcolm and ended the innings when Skeete edged a catch behind to his sixth ball. This was not, however, before Graeme Hick had dropped a straightforward catch at mid-off when Skeete miscued a drive against Philip Tufnell.

On the evidence of this match - they also dropped four catches on the opening day - England's tour sponsors ought to be Teflon rather than Tetley, and although this is as good a fielding side as they have put out in a long time, this does not apply when Lewis, Matthew Maynard and Nasser Hussain are not playing. If those three replaced Malcolm, Fraser and Tufnell, they would probably never misfield another ball - the down side to this being that they would probably never take another wicket either.

(Second day of four; Barbados won toss)

BARBADOS - First Innings

(Overnight: 289 for 6)

V C Drakes c Russell b Malcolm 2

O D Gibson b Malcolm 3

W E Reid c Tufnell b Igglesden 3

S M Skeete c Russell b Fraser 34

D M Maynard not out 17

Extras (lb1 nb10) 11

Total 348

Fall (cont): 7-292 8-295 9-299.

Bowling: Malcolm 26-1-134-7; Igglesden 20-4-71-2; Fraser 19-4-62-1; Tufnell 31-6-62-0; Hick 6-1-18-0.

ENGLAND - First Innings

* M A Atherton not out 71

A J Stewart b Drakes 47

M R Ramprakash c Browne b Gibson 6

A R Fraser not out 6

Extras (1 w 13 nb) 14

Total (for 2) 144

Fall: 1-87 2-128.

To bat: R A Smith, G A Hick, G P Thorpe, R C Russell, A P Igglesden, P C R Tufnell, D E Malcolm.

Umpires: H Moore and D Holder.

(Photograph omitted)