Cricket: Malcolm rises with a rattle of wickets

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England . . . . . . . . . . . . . .408-4 dec and 146-2 dec

India Under-25 X1 . . . . . . . . .273 and 53-1

Match drawn

ALL things are relative in India and any sympathy that might otherwise have been due when England stumbled off the overnight sleeper from Bhubaneshwar before daybreak this morning has to be diluted by the knowledge that there are something like two million people in Calcutta who spend every night on the pavement.

However, if Graham Gooch's team looked in only marginally better shape than India's transport network a couple of days ago, there were encouraging signs from the final day of their drawn match here against the Indian Under-25s that they are looking at least half-way prepared for a game of Test cricket on Friday.

The fielding has been abject in Cuttack and no one has suffered more from the fact that the England slip cordon resembles a row of tailor's dummies than the Northamptonshire Taylor, Paul. Furthermore, the pre-tour idea that England's trio of spinners might cut a swathe through the subcontinent with a bewitching mixture of guile, flight and tweak can almost certainly be dismissed as a most fanciful notion.

In terms of good news, Devon Malcolm was fit enough to rise from his sickbed and bowl, although there was a certain amount of irony in the way he delivered only two overs before finishing off the home team's first innings with three wickets in four deliveries.

Malcolm, who had not bowled at all for three weeks, probably felt like a boxer in need of a hard 10- rounder only for his opponent to keel over after one tap from the left jab. England got round this by declaring their second innings to give him another chance in the final session. This time, Malcolm took a wicket with his fifth ball during a long spell in extreme heat.

Malcolm certainly looked as though he is swift enough to coax some life out of Indian pitches, but accuracy is his major problem and yesterday he happily managed to confine his spread to a single slice of toast, so to speak, rather than the entire tablecloth.

There was one moment of hilarity when Malcolm's loosener to his team-mate at mid-off forced Ian Salisbury into a Grobbelaar-like dive, but when he was aiming at the opposition (a catch at slip, an lbw, and two bowled) he was more or less spot on.

Salisbury also bowled much better yesterday, ending an embarrassing partnership of 155 between the two left-handers, Amay Khurasia and Gyanendra Pandey, with two wickets in his first over. Khurasia, having just moved from his overnight 88 to three figures, should actually have been out to Graeme Hick the over before, when there was the first recorded instance on this tour of an attempt to hit an England bowler for six that did not succeed.

The ball was falling to earth, considerably closer to midwicket (Malcolm) than mid-on (Robin Smith), but once Smith had established the identity of the man at midwicket, he made the not unreasonable decision to go for the ball himself. It ended with a full- length sprawl without laying a hand on it, and a minor question mark about the alleged vision-enhancing properties of the sunglasses Smith was wearing.

It was probably not without significance that Hick did a fair amount of bowling in this game. So far on tour, John Emburey, Philip Tufnell and Salisbury have only troubled those Indian batsmen worried about injuring relatives in the crowd and, if England can raise a quorum of seamers, it is becoming more and more possible that they will play only one spinner in Calcutta, with Hick as back-up.

Chris Lewis, who bowled very well here, and Paul Jarvis are certainties, and Malcolm is now a much more comfortable option than he was. Taylor, who had a stomach upset yesterday, has looked good in spells, but he really needs to swing the ball more to be effective in Indian conditions and the left-arm seamer has been driven rather too often for comfort. England may yet give him a Test debut, but they have no great track record when it comes to boldness and the prospects of Dermot Reeve making his own Test debut on Friday cannot be ruled out.

The batting is in much better shape than the bowling, particularly after Mike Atherton's prolonged spell in the middle after 17 days without an innings and a seven-ball duck on Saturday. Atherton has spent so long in the nets that his first reaction yesterday must have been to pick up the ball and throw it back to the bowler, but his 80 not out was just what he and England needed. His first 50 runs came close to doing the impossible - sending an Indian crowd to sleep - but Atherton was batting with real fluency when Gooch declared.

As for the prospect of England's chaotic itinerary taking a turn for the better, it is rumoured that Bob Bennett is about to tell his hosts that he has just about had enough. However, there can scarcely have been a more equable tour manager than Bennett, and a threat from him may mean nothing more than that when England's 20-strong party are issued with their tickets to Vishakhapatnam (six pedalos, six hot-air balloons, and eight pairs of roller-skates), Bennett will decline to say 'thank you'.

(Final day of three: England won toss)

ENGLAND - First Innings 408 for 4 dec (G A Gooch 102, R A Smith 149no).

INDIA UNDER-25 XI - First Innings

(Overnight: 224 for 4)

A R Khurasia c Gooch b Salisbury. . . . . . . . . . 103 G K Pandey c Gooch b Malcolm. . . . . . . . . . . . .54 S V Bahutule b Salisbury. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 P V Gandhe not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 A W Zaidi lbw b Malcolm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0 A Kuruvilla b Malcolm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0 Extras (b1 lb5 w1 nb13). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Total. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .273

Fall: 1-33 2-74 3-89 4-98 5-258 6-262 7-273 8-273 9-273.

Bowling: Lewis 16-3-37-2; Taylor 22-4-72-1; Tufnell 15-4-56-0; Salisbury 15-2-77-3; Hick 6-1-22-0; Malcolm 2-1-3-3.

ENGLAND - Second Innings

M A Atherton not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .80 G A Hick c Dighe b Zaidi. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25 A J Stewart c Dighe b Jadeja. . . . . . . . . . . . .21 M W Gatting not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Extras (b6 lb1 nb1). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 Total (for 2 dec). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .146

Fall: 1-46 2-82.

Bowling: Zaidi 12-3-34-1; Kuruvilla 10-2-27-0; Gandhe 13-3-48-0; Jadeja 5-2-7-1; Bahutule 6-1- 23-0.

INDIA UNDER-25 XI - Second Innings

* A S Jadeja b Malcolm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 S S Dighe not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 J Paranjpe not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23 Extras (w1 nb6). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 Total (for 1). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53

Fall: 1-1.

Bowling: Malcolm 7-0-25-1; Gatting 4-0-19-0; Tufnell 3-1-8-0; Salisbury 1-0-1-0.

Umpires: S K Bansal and A L Narasimhan.

MATCH DRAWN

England's bag man, page 28

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