Cricket: Rain dampens Fletcher's dream ending: England's manager harbours hopes of an overdue victory in the sixth Test despite the untimely intervention of the weather

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The Independent Online
KEITH FLETCHER bore the look of a cheated man last night after the fates intervened just as he appeared to be about to celebrate his first success as England manager in the sixth Test here yesterday.

'It would have been nice to get a couple of wickets tonight, now we will have to get them early tomorrow. We could have done with a drop of rain on two or three occasions this summer - that's the way it goes,' he said.

'It has been a long wait to get in a position like this but there is still a lot of cricket to be played,' he added. 'We are 10 wickets away and they are a strong batting side so I can't get too excited.'

Although Australia's coach, Bob Simpson, said Australia believed victory was possible Fletcher discounted such a result adding: 'We were looking to declare at about the score we made. Mark Ramprakash and Alec Stewart virtually took us to a safe position. Mark showed a very good temperament.'

Ramprakash's coolness belied his overnight nerves. He said: 'I felt under really big pressure. I did not have a very good night's sleep and found it very difficult to switch off and relax last night.'

Ramprakash, who had not reached 30 in his previous 17 Test innings, said he heard the crowd applaud when he finally did so adding: 'They were fantastic, they were really behind me. I was trying to think positively and not think about that. I enjoyed batting with Alec Stewart, he helped me a great deal as I had not faced any of the bowlers before.'

Ramprakash was only called up on Wednesday morning when his close friend, Graham Thorpe, cracked a finger in practice. At first he did not believe it.

He recalled: 'I was on the practice pitch at Lord's warming up our wicketkeeper Keith Brown for Middlesex's game with Northants when Mike Gatting came over and said 'you've got to get to The Oval' - naturally I thought it was a wind-up.'

His innings has strengthened his chances of a Caribbean tour place and he added: 'I would love to go, I think I could do well there.'

Then, as Ramprakash headed for his first television interview as a successful England batsman, Geoff Boycott came over, planted a Brian Clough- style kiss on him and said: 'Well done, it's not how you make them but how many you get.'

If Australia are to get the 390 required to win tomorrow they will have to go close to emulating Sir Don Bradman's 1948 Australians who made 404 in less than a day to win at Headingley. Simpson said it was possible.

'It is still an excellent batting track, we will go out, bat naturally and see what happens. It would have been nice to play on tonight to set up what could be a fantastic finish. We felt this morning 350-400 was gettable.'

Simpson thought England would do better than expected in the West Indies and picked out Lancashire's John Crawley - 'by far the best we've seen' - as the batsman he would take adding that talent, not experience, should be their guideline.

(Photograph omitted)

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