CRICKET: Stemp of class

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The Independent Online
PHIL TUFNELl beware - genuine challengers to your Test place are emerging and two such aspirants, Min Patel and Richard Stemp, are on the England A tour. In the land of the spin doctors, it is Stemp, the slow left-armer from Yorkshire, who is mak ing thebiggest impression so far and he further boosted his reputation on the first day of the first five-day "Test" against India A yesterday.

Just days after earning high praise from Gunduppa Viswanath, a veteran of 91 Tests for India and chairman of India's A team selection committee, Stemp returned a spell of two for 56 in 32 overs to keep the home side on some sort of a leash. Perhaps more significantly, he also showed that he has the temperament and talent to swap his A-team jumper for the real thing when the West Indies visit in the summer.

Stemp bowled unchanged throughout the afternoon session when, on a pitch of slow turn and low bounce, his two wickets came for 22 from 15 overs and he reined the Indians back just as they were about to show what damage can be done on docile pitches when first in to bat. In the 40th over of the day, he had Jitender Singh comfortably pouched at silly-point to end an opening stand of 99, and then Amol Muzumdar, the Bombay youngster who last year set a new world record for the highest score on a first-classdebut, was caught off him at slip.

Alan Wells was grateful for his spinner's efforts. "It was a fantastic spell. He's in a fabulous rhythm and I don't think anybody could have bowled 32 overs better than he did. His flight, pace, accuracy and the lines he bowled were all exemplary." In l i ght of Tufnell's anaemic performances in Australia, Stemp could be in line for graduation.

While Stemp's star is in the ascendant, Ian Salisbury's is at present nose-diving. He looked in excellent shape in Bombay, where he took nine wickets, but following his mauling in Madras, he again bowled too many bad balls yesterday. Vikram Rathore, in particular, tucked in heartily, cover-driving him so sumptuously that the leg spinner then dropped too short and was pulled through midwicket. The Sussex man eventually picked up a smart return catch as Rathore neared his century, but Wells w ill hope hiscounty colleague relaxes and rediscovers his rhythm, which, on his day, can make him such a difficult proposition.

Rathore's dismissal brought in the Bangalore boy Rahul Dravid, local sensitivities meaning he would always find a place in the strong batting line-up. However, his worth was soon apparent, as he showed the bowlers the full face of his bat, driving crisply in a stand of 50 with Praveen Amre, the captain. Amre was eventually undone by the new ball, taken behind by the tidy Paul Nixon off Glen Chapple. Chapple's brisk action had earlier troubled the openers, and his wicket was just reward for a consistent line and wholehearted display.

Dravid reached his 50 just before stumps with England knowing that the back of him means the end of the frontline batsmen.

(First day; India won toss)

India - First innings J Singh c Knight b Stemp 32

V Rathore c and b Salisbury 90

A Mazumdar c Wells b Stemp 1

*P Amre c Nixon b Chapple 38

R Dravid not out 50

V Yadav not out 14

Extras (b5, lb6) 11

Total (for 4) 236

Fall: 1-99, 2-101, 3-157, 4-207.

To bat: S Bahutule, U Chatterjee, P Mhambrey, A Kuruvilla, R Chauhan.

Bowling: Cork 15-3-25-0; Chapple 24-7-62-1, Stemp 32-10-56-2, Salisbury 9-1-42-1, Weekes 10-1-40-0.

ENGLAND A: N V Wright, M P Vaughan, J E R Gallian, M P Ramprakash, *A P Wells, P N Weekes, D G Cork, P A Nixon, I D K Salisbury, G Chapple, R D Stemp.