Cricket: Rain is England's best hope for the Test: Bowling prospects clouded as Lewis cleared to lead attack despite bruising to left heel

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND'S cricketers spent most of yesterday deep inside the Guyanese jungle belt, on a sightseeing trip to the world's highest single drop waterfall at Kaiteur, although they could almost have had the same effect watching the rain pouring from the top floor guttering at their Georgetown hotel.

Even if yesterday had not been an official day off, England would have had no chance of being able to practise, and such is the history of rain- wrecked cricket matches here that the weather represents England's best chance of leaving Guyana next week only one down with three Tests to play.

They are in such disarray with their bowling attack that Alan Igglesden, who missed the match against the West Indies Board President's XI with a shoulder injury, actually improved his prospects of Test selection by not playing. Andrew Caddick and Steve Watkin were little short of hopeless in this game, Chris Lewis barely bowled because of his foot injury, and the case for playing two spinners in Thursday's Test is rapidly becoming unarguable.

If it is to be only two seamers, Lewis is almost certain to be selected to take the new ball with Angus Fraser after an orthopaedic surgeon confirmed yesterday that the damage to his left heel and ankle is nothing more than bruising. He will take pain-killing tablets if necessary, and the team manager, Keith Fletcher, said: 'He will just have to grit his teeth and bowl through it.'

Lewis has had a problem with his left foot for the thick end of 18 months. The harder grounds in the Caribbean have not helped and the England physiotherapist, Dave Roberts, has added some padding to Lewis's left boot.

Roberts said yesterday that Lewis would be fit for selection on Thursday. However, if England play two spinners, and Lewis breaks down, Mike Atherton could yet find himself tossing the second new ball to Mark Ramprakash.

Ironically, the bowling has got worse on this tour since the arrival of the team's official bowling coach, Geoff Arnold. However, Fletcher said: 'It makes no difference who we've got coaching them. The bowlers have been told what to do, and they're just not doing it.'

England's other worry is the form of Robin Smith, who has made less than 200 runs in his last nine innings, and was out on Sunday spooning a floated full toss to the fielder at midwicket. However, either Smith or Mark Ramprakash will bat at No 3 in the Test, leaving a debate (probably of the eeny, meeny, miney mo variety) between Nasser Hussain, Graham Thorpe and Matthew Maynard for the No 6 position. If England are praying for anything, it is for more rain.

The West Indies players have 'reluctantly' abandoned plans to strike for better pay after their cricket board threatened to replace them.