Cricket: Ramprakash cuts teeth on 'the Dentist'

Click to follow
The Independent Online
ENGLAND'S tour of the West Indies has thus far tended towards the Mars bar ethic of work, rest and play, with every player having had a bite of each. However, against St Kitts and Nevis yesterday, they suffered a bout of mid-afternoon toothache, and it needed a century of great maturity from Mark Ramprakash, with some typically rugged support from Robin Smith, to prevent full-blown decay taking root.

At the close of the first day, England had declared at 308 for six. Their discomfort was inflicted by the opening bowler, John Maynard, known in these parts as 'the Dentist' due to his propensity for extracting batsmen's teeth as he does pace and bounce from the pitch. In the afternoon session, England's middle order began to suffer more the odd nervous palpitation as Matthew Maynard and Nasser Hussain were dismissed in the space of five balls.

Experimentation with the order was precluded when it came to the opening partnership of Michael Atherton and Alec Stewart. Despite a century apiece in the last game, the captain has not seen fit to tinker with this vital alliance. If anything, he will want to cement it. This has to be as strong as possible, for it will be the crucial breach through which Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh will pour with the new ball in the Tests, should any weakness be apparent.

It wasn't long before Atherton's intentions were thwarted. After a breezy opening stand of 30, dominated by Stewart's square cut - albeit fed by some wayward bowling from Mills, Atherton flicked at a leg-side ball from Maynard, and was well caught by the wicket-keeper Phillips diving to his left.

This brought Ramprakash to the wicket for his first look at the prospective No 3 role. As he did in England during the West Indians' last tour, Ramprakash looked to have time to play the ball, particularly in defence.

The pitch looks custom- made for spin, and it wasn't long before both off-spinners were operating in tandem. Despite being brown and bare in appearance, the groundsman, Mr Horatio Versailles, pointed out that Andy Roberts, the former Test fast bowler, used to love playing here, claiming that he 'wished he could take this pitch with him all over the world'.

Meanwhile, Ronald Powell, the off-spinner operating from the prison end, kept plugging away wide of off-stump and despite Stewart and Ramprakash both moving serenely beyond 50, the scoring was stemmed by Powell's accuracy and the superb ground-fielding of Colin Cannonier in the covers. It was due reward for perseverance when Powell had Stewart caught behind by Phillip.

It wasn't until this breakthrough that Maynard started to hit an awkward line and length. Pitching it up, he had his namesake lbw for two. Four balls later, Hussain tried to punch one through the covers and edged to first slip and was caught by Harwood Williams.

It took Ramprakash and a staunchly belligerent Smith to shore things up again. Using the sweep to deep square leg, Ramprakash kept things ticking along against the persevering Powell. Smith, admirably restrained, adapted to both the situation and the pitch, his 50 taking 94 balls, until he was stumped by Phillip off Lake as tried to force the pace.

If the feeling that Ramprakash - despite being bowled off an inside edge just before the close - has solved one of England's potential problems (the No 3 spot), it will be of equal interest to see how England's most likely Test attack functions later in the game. With Atherton declaring at England's overnight total, all eyes will now be on Tufnell as the pitch begins to wear.

(First day of three; England won toss)

ENGLAND - First Innings

*M A Atherton c Phillip b Maynard . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 A J Stewart c Phillip b Powell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .67 M R Ramprakash b Mills . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132 M P Maynard lbw b Maynard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 N Hussain c Williams b Maynard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 R A Smith st Phillip b Lake . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 ] R C Russell not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 Extras . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18 Total (for six dec) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .308

Fall: 1-30 2-137 3-146 4-146 5-285 6-308.

Did not bat: C C Lewis, A R C Fraser, P C R Tufnell, D E Malcolm.

Bowling: Maynard 23-4-91-3; Mills 12.4-1-42- 1; Tuckett 5-0-12-0; Powell 35-5-94-1; Lake 18- 2-68-1.

St Kitts and Nevis: *C Tuckett, C Cannonier, R Phillip, L Lake, M Liburd, J Maynard, M Mills, J Mitchum, R Powell, B Thompson, H Williams.

Umpires: A Weekes and I Merchant.

Comments