Cricket: Reid seizes control

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The Independent Online
AS STARTS go, this was about as disappointing as England could have feared.

From the comfort zone of 149 for one, they lost eight wickets for 92 against a Western Australia attack for which the description 'steady' would be flattering. Recent tours have shown that, if the bandwagon shifts from the rails in early matches, it can veer wildly out of control come the Test matches.

Only Michael Atherton reached 50 and England's batsmen surrendered their wickets with a motley array of shots. They invariably got themselves out and that, as the coach Keith Fletcher pointed out, is not something they can afford to do this winter. Fletcher said: 'We simply must not give wickets away with indisciplined strokes - and the players have been reminded of that. It is important they learn, because this is the sort of controlled bowling we will be facing out here.'

Of Western Australia's bowlers, only Bruce Reid has any chance of making the Test team. Reid, the 6ft 8in left-armer has been Australia's leading wicket-taker on England's last two visits and his four for 71 yesterday was a persuasive argument for his restoration to the side.

All was rosy as Graham Gooch and Atherton, riding their luck, made 77 for the first wicket. Gooch still hopes to open the innings in the Test series, although the sight of Stewart batting one-handed in the nets - and now expecting to play against South Australia on Friday - has reduced this to little more than a pipedream. Gooch's only possible route to promotion to the top of the order is a century in this game. He didn't score it yesterday, edging a drive to gully.

Atherton, dropped in the gully when on four, looked in good order until his timing deserted him after lunch when what should have been boundaries became mere singles. His demise was uncharacteristic: he attacked a bouncer uncontrolledly - only Ian Botham could hook sixes without looking at the ball - and skied a catch to fine leg. England's problems had begun.

Graeme Hick, batting with greater freedom and assurance than anybody, was joined by Graham Thorpe, who lasted nine deliveries but was fortunate to survive that long. He was dropped at square leg on his first ball, swished and slashed with abandon, and perished chasing a wide one. Thorpe prefers playing shots, but discretion must be observed - especially in the first real knock of the tour.

Hick was then caught cutting powerfully to backward point and Mike Gatting was lucky to survive an edge to third slip on three before pulling tamely to square leg four runs later. Gatting looks in terrible nick and, unless that changes, John Crawley is likely to nudge ahead of him in the pecking order for the vacant No 6 berth.

Mind you, Crawley scarcely offered a compelling case. His 36 not out was scratched and scrambled from 39 turgid overs. At least he stuck around, which is more than can be said for the rest. Steve Rhodes gloved a hook, Phillip DeFreitas clubbed to cover, Martin McCague gave third slip catching practice and Joey Benjamin heaved mightily and madly at what turned out to be the final ball of the day.

---------------------------------------------------------------- (First day of four) ---------------------------------------------------------------- ENGLAND G A Gooch c Lavender b Reid 38 M A Atherton c Coulson b Cary 68 G A Hick c Lavender b Moody 41 G P Thorpe c Gilchrist b Cary 4 M W Gatting c Goodwin b Reid 7 J P Crawley not out 36 S J Rhodes c Gilchrist b Cary 13 P A J DeFreitas c Hogg b Reid 20 M J McCague c Veletta b Coulson 1 J E Benjamin b Reid 1 Extras (b1 lb1 nb10) 12 Total (for 9, 94.5 overs) 241 Fall: 1-77 2-149 3-153 4-157 5-171 6-199 7-239 8-240 9-241.

To bat: D Malcolm Bowling: Reid 24.5-6-71-4, Coulson 24-6- 83-1, Cary 24-11-55-3, Moody 15-5-28-1, Stewart 7-5-2-0.

Western Australia: D Martyn, M Valetta, M Lavender, T Moody, M Goodwin, B Hogg, A Gilchrist, C Coulson, J Stewart, S Cary, B Reid.

(Photograph omitted)