Cricket: Rudderless team's lost weekend

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By Henry Blofeld

ON SATURDAY it was as if a good first-class county side was playing against a Minor County. It was as an embarrassing performance by England as anyone can remember and it left one wondering what planning, if any, had gone into it.

The pitch had dried under the sun and was much easier than it had been on the first day, but even so Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh are superb bowlers. If they had bowled England out, it perhaps would not have been not quite so bad, but they succumbed to a run-of-the-mill leg-spinner, Dinanath Ramnarine, who took 4 for 29.

He spins his leg-break and the pitch allowed him a fair amount of turn. He does not have much of a googly and yet as Mushtaq Ahmed and Shane Warne, who are in a different class, have found over the years, English batsmen have little clue against this form of bowling.

While England were floundering against Ramnarine at the Recreation Ground, the Indian batsmen have been revelling against Warne in Calcutta.

That only helped to make England's failure seem even more miserable. What followed when England began to bowl was too ghastly for words. Philo Wallace and Clayton Lambert had put it across these same bowlers twice in the Barbados Test.

It would surely have been reasonable to suppose that in the pre-match build-up a good deal of thought and discussion would have gone on about the best way to bowl at them. As it was, there was no discernible evidence that their names had even cropped up in the conversation.

The advisers and coaches and guides are spectacularly efficient when it comes to upsetting the West Indian Board and their main sponsors by accepting a better invitation and spurning an elaborately planned end of tour party. It is just a pity they cannot do anything about the cricket.

Apart from being unbelievably feeble when the West Indies began their innings, England were rudderless. In the first over Mike Atherton let a ball go through his legs and, by trotting rather than running after it, succeeded in turning a single into a two. In the next over he dropped Lambert in the gully.

Thereafter he appeared completely to have lost the plot. Although Andy Caddick and Dean Headley hardly helped when they served up one succulent and enticing long hop after another.

Why was it Mark Ramprakash was given only two overs and right at the end? One could go on and on.

The bosses did get one thing right. At the press conference afterwards Bob Bennett, the manager, gave it as his opinion that: "England have had better days." We could hardly disagree with that.