Cricket: Reinforcements arrive in time to breathe new life into flagging party

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The Independent Online
AFTER a long, largely unsuccessful Test series, it is difficult for players to clear their heads and regain their enthusiasm for the one-day internationals which usually follow. After losing the Test matches 3-1 to the West Indies and then having Mike Atherton resign the captaincy, it would have been difficult for the Test side to have regrouped.

They, and indirectly their hosts too, will have been grateful that England have now flown out six of the side who served them so well in the one- day competition in Sharjah last December. New faces bring a fresh optimism and a new dimension.

In the build-up to this one-day series, the newcomers have put new life into the remnants of the main party which returned from Antigua, not surprisingly, in a dejected frame of mind. To see Matthew Fleming and Dougie Brown and the others at practice did one good.

If these five one-day matches had been played between the same old 30- odd faces who had fought out the Test series, the players would have done little more than go through the motions and the rest of us would have yawned our heads off.

This was very much borne out by the way Nick Knight set off when he opened the innings with Alec Stewart. Knight cover-drove Franklyn Rose for four in his first over and strokes flowed off his bat. Stewart, who has had the pressure on him all through the Test series as he tried to make up for Atherton's poor form, revelled in being allowed to take a back seat.

Knight raced ahead of him to 50 and it was wonderful to see the power, timing and certainty in his strokeplay. In this innings, he showed that he is still very much a contender for a place in this summer's Test side - not least because of his left-handedness.

Of the newcomers to the West Indies, Graeme Hick was a mild disappointment. With Knight past a hundred, he should have been looking to play his strokes in order to give his partner the chance to have a breather and get a second wind. As it was, his batting lacked urgency.

It was surprising that Ben Hollioake did not come in when wickets fell towards the end of the innings. But it was wonderfully refreshing to see Matthew Fleming bat with such uncomplicated common sense at the end, taking 12 off Phil Simmons's last over and making 22 not out in 12 balls. Adam Hollioake also batted with refreshing purpose.