Cricket: Third Test: Malcolm blitz: Derek Pringle assesses the qualities of the man who turned the tide for England

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The Independent Online
DEVON MALCOLM is a cheery soul. Even with a ball in his hand there is none of the macho posturing that other fast bowlers go in for. Not for him the glare or the snarl at opposing batsmen, more a kind of quizzical look, the kind you might give the milkman should he hand you a bottle of scotch instead of your morning pint of milk.

When Malcolm started out at Derbyshire, his poor eyesight, coupled with an action that relied more on force than finesse, meant that he couldn't see a barn door let alone hit it. Though contact lenses have allowed him to overcome the first of these handicaps, he still goes through periods where hitting a line and length give him some difficulty. His round-arm action is based on brute strength and this means that a batsman's reflexes have to be in top condition as successive deliveries are rarely the same.

After yesterday, Malcolm's notoreity is assured. For such, he will be grateful. Soon after his Test debut against Australia in 1989, he had seemingly failed to make an impression with the then chairman of selectors, Ted Dexter, who, when asked about the dearth of fast bowling talent, replied: 'Well, what about Malcolm Devon?' If that caused mild amusement and some confusion, a visit to Buckingham Palace along with his England team-mates and the West Indies team saw him completely puzzled when the Duke of Edinburgh asked him what he was doing in an England blazer.

Almost as sporadic as his appearances at the Palace have been his appearances for England and this is only his 28th Test. He has yet to take a hundred wickets for his adopted country since moving here from Jamaica in his early teens. However, when he finds his rhythm and confidence, he can be as fast as anybody and his memorable duels against Viv Richards out in the Caribbean during 1990 provided the subtext to a series that England narrowly lost.

Over the past three years, he has been specifically drafted in to do a job at The Oval and he always reckons to find his best form on the fast and bouncy pitch there. In 1991, he was in the squad against Pakistan and was not confident of making the final XI. By chance, we had been discussing new grips to make the ball swing and I suggested he made a few minor alterations. The ball swung everywhere in the nets, and so pleased was Malcolm to have rediscovered his outswing that he convinced Mickey Stewart that he should play. He did, and he bowled himself on to the tour of India.

History has repeated itself. Not only has his nine-wicket spell given England the chance to win, it has booked him a berth to Australia. Another few performances like this one, and the Ashes may come home.