Cricket: Powell excels as Lara watches

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West Indies 224-6 Surrey 169-8

West Indies won by 88 runs

(D/L Method)

BRIAN LARA appeared on the field for the first time this summer yesterday, but it was merely to perform the 12th man errands in the West Indies third and last preparation match before their opening World Cup game against the powerful Pakistanis at Bristol on Sunday.

The captain was again unwilling to expose his lingering right wrist injury and, in his absence, it was left to the youngest and newest man on the West Indies team, and the club's imaginative, Caribbean- style outfield entertainment, to enliven another showery afternoon for an encouragingly sizeable crowd of around 6,000.

Ricardo Powell, the 20-year-old Jamaican drafted into the squad after Carl Hooper's last- minute withdrawal, blazed away with strokes that were a mirror image of those Lara might himself have played. Hitting with fluent, wristy power, he accumulated 53 from 23 balls out of 61 while he was in, the West Indies rattling up 100 from their final 10 overs to reach 224 for 6 once their innings was reduced to 40 after rain halted play for two and three-quarter hours.

The Duckworth/Lewis system obliged Surrey to score 258 from the same 40 overs and they were really never in with a chance, ending on 169 for eight to lose by the computerised margin of 88 runs.

Powell's three sixes were clean, long and straight hits. His first was still rising as it cleared long-off from the medium pace of Jason Ratcliffe, the second and third were off the similar pace of Gary Butcher in an over that cost 17. There were four fours as well and he allowed only one ball to go scoreless.

He returned to a standing ovation from the members and nods of approval from Lara and the West Indies dressing- room, having created something of a quandary in the selection for Sunday's opener. The selectors have to balance Powell's inexperience - his first-class debut was in January and he had not even played a one-day match for Jamaica prior to his West Indies call - against his natural talent and youthful enthusiasm. He is, in addition, a fast and outstanding outfielder and also sent down five useful overs of off-spin.

The West Indies' top scorer was the left-handed wicket-keeper Ridley Jacobs, who came through Alex Tudor's impressive opening burst to gather 80 from 98 balls with two sixes and seven fours. Promoted as opener for the final three matches of the recent one-day series against Australia in the Caribbean, he has taken to the job with the relish that others like Australia's Adam Gilchrist and Sri Lanka's Romesh Kaluwitheran, have done.

Jacobs' success means that the middle order can have a more substantial look with Lara at No 3 to be followed by Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jimmy Adams and Phil Simmons. And, now, perhaps, Ricardo Powell as well.

Like Lara, Courtney Walsh also chose to take the match off, as he did the earlier two. His 36-year-old joints, especially that in his left knee, need as much rest and attention as they can get prior to an exacting few weeks. His perennial partner in pace, Curtly Ambrose, did have his first match of the summer, sending down five leisurely, but typically mean, overs.