Cricket: Paceman Lewis goes from surplus to spearhead

Click to follow
The Independent Online
EITHER Mike Atherton is a man of limitless faith, or else the England captain feels he is up a creek without a paddle, but Chris Lewis is about to be given a new role on this tour as replacement strike bowler for Devon Malcolm. Until Malcolm, Lewis's closest friend, flew home with knee cartilage trouble a fortnight ago, Lewis's name in connection with England's next Test team looked more likely to be found in the wastepaper basket than pinned to the dressing-room wall.

However, such is his talent and potential for bowling extremely rapidly when the mood is upon him, that Lewis will spearhead England's attack in the four-day game starting today against a West Indian Board President's XI with a view to doing the same in the second Test here in his native Guyana a week later.

Alan Igglesden is definitely out of today's game because of a shoulder injury and Andy Caddick faces a fitness test following more problems with an infected toe on his left foot.

Lewis's new job is to bowl with as much hostility as he can in short spells, although on the evidence so far, Lewis regards short spells as amounting to one delivery. Apart from a bouncer to Keith Arthurton with the penultimate ball of the day during the Jamaica Test match, which almost tore Arthurton's head off, Lewis has given the impression of a man bowling with a feather duster never mind someone likely to make a dent in a helmet.

Ironically enough, it was the evidence from that one ball - that he can do it when he wants to - which has prompted observations of a none too complimentary nature among his own team-mates, and if Lewis squanders this latest (and scarcely deserved) opportunity, he may discover that he will be playing rather more games for Nottinghamshire than he has in mind next summer.

Atherton's options have been limited by the fact that his fit pace bowlers have not exactly come to the boil, although Angus Fraser showed encouraging signs of looking more like his old self during the final one- day international in Trinidad. Not only did he bowl well, but when he conceded a boundary with a bad ball at the end of his opening spell, the hangdog shoulders, howls of self- admonishment and a series of angry swishes with his right boot that included making a dent in one of the boundary boards, was vintage Fraser.

Otherwise, however, all is not well with England's seam attack, and while the inclusion of both specialist spinners for this game is not necessarily a pointer to the Test match, it is undoubtedly an option that Atherton is seriously pondering.

There are two ways to get out West Indian batsmen, either with good old-fashioned English virtues of line, length and movement, or via the floated lure. As the former is not happening, Ian Salisbury and Philip Tufnell provide an obvious alternative, especially as there is rarely much in the pitch for the seamers at the Bourda Oval.

The problem position of No 3 in the batting order is likely to be filled - as many thought it should have been in Jamaica - by Mark Ramprakash provided the Middlesex batsman makes runs here. Of all the relatively junior contenders for a top-six place, he has exuded the most class.

The President's XI team captain is Guyana's Carl Hooper, now recovered from a back injury and almost certain to be included for the Test in place of Phil Simmons or Jimmy Adams. Hooper is not only a class batsman, a flypaper slip catcher and a much improved off-spinner, but were he to be left out there would not be much left of the ground once the crowd had finished demonstrating.

WEST INDIAN BOARD PRESIDENT'S XI (from): C L Hooper (Guyana, capt), R G Samuels (Jamaica), D A Joseph (Windwards), K F Semple (Guyana), S Chanderpaul (Guyana), K Mason (Trinidad), K A Wong (Guyana, wkt), N O Perry (Jamaica), R Dhanraj (Trinidad), C E Cuffy (Windwards), B St A Browne (Guyana), F A Rose (Jamaica).