Gough's silver lining amid the clouds

Paceman puts England in charge by removing Lara after West Indies choose to bat on rain-affected opening day
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Manchester's reputation for rain is deserved, but no longer its reputation as a place of cricketing traditions. Long before the heavy showers that interrupted yesterday's play, Old Trafford, the cricket ground, has been losing out to its more famous cousin up the road. Five years ago, the first four days were sold out against the West Indies. Yesterday, the ground was barely half full, and that with a local lad playing in his 100th Test for an England team in the ascendancy.

Manchester's reputation for rain is deserved, but no longer its reputation as a place of cricketing traditions. Long before the heavy showers that interrupted yesterday's play, Old Trafford, the cricket ground, has been losing out to its more famous cousin up the road. Five years ago, the first four days were sold out against the West Indies. Yesterday, the ground was barely half full, and that with a local lad playing in his 100th Test for an England team in the ascendancy.

Despite the extra hour only 42 overs were possible, less than half a day's scheduled play. Yet even that was enough time for the game to take shape, with England taking four West Indies' wickets after Jimmy Adams won the toss and decided to bat.

With the spectre of West Indies' 54 all out at Lord's not such a distant memory, Nasser Hussain emphasised theimportance of reapplying pressure on their batsmen. His bowlers did not disappoint and once play had begun, after rain delayed the start for an hour, Darren Gough and Andy Caddick removed both openers in quick succession.

First to strike, Gough had Sherwin Campbell caught low down by Graham Thorpe at third slip after the batsman failed to cover the extra bounce generated by the new ball outside his off-stump. Thorpe, preferred here to Graeme Hick, also caught Brian Lara in the same position during the final session of play.

Lara, perhaps still troubled by his hamstring problem, was uncharacteristically subdued. True, the ball was moving about, but after getting off the mark with a streaky boundary it was 60 minutes before he added another. In between, he mixed caution with steadfast defence, a tactic that ensured he left any extravagances to his taller partner Wavell Hinds.

With four breaks for rain neither were allowed to settle, though the upright Hinds made the most of the cobwebs that Caddick had picked up in the dressing-room, twice finding the boundary.

When on 25, Hinds got a leading edge to a slower ball from Gough that hung agonisingly in the air as Robert Croft turned heavily at mid-off to give chase. A quick, agile man would have got there, but Croft, selected here to bowl his off-spinners, is neither of those things and the ball fell safe.

If Hinds felt the break to be a harbinger of good fortune he was to be quickly disabused and he added just one run before being given out caught behind off Dominic Cork. An undemonstrative man, Hinds departed without complaint even though television replays showed he had missed the ball by some distance, the third Test innings in a row where he has been dismissed in such a way.

Despite Cork's reputation for over-the-top histrionics, the chief architect of the questionable appeal was Alec Stewart. Before the start of play, both Atherton and Stewart were each presented with a claret jug, a cut glass urn and a special cap to commemorate their 100th Test appearance.

Three balls later umpire Doug Cowie should have upheld Cork's lbw appeal against Adams as the left-hander played around a straight one. But if that was a rare dollop of fortune for the visitors, Lara's dismissal, opening the bat face on a shortish ball from Gough, meant relief was shortlived.

With repair work to be done, Adams found a spirited ally in 20-year-old Ramnaresh Sarwan, playing his first Test of the summer. Off the mark with a neatly clipped three from the first ball he received, Sarwan showed that a diet of nets and county games had not dulled his instincts and a sparkling cut for four, off Caddick, at least went some way to placating a disgruntled crowd.

With numbers having dwindled steadily here the past few seasons, the England and Wales Cricket Board have seemingly lost patience with Old Trafford. Next year with Test series against both Pakistan and Australia, the ECB has decided against holding an Ashes Test here, a move that has caused a real stir up here.

By modern standards, and with ticket prices ranging from £18-£36 for this match, the public are not exactly spoilt at the ground, and many probably feel their money is better put towards the latest Manchester United shirt. Most seats are not under cover and when the groundstaff forgot to cover an already muddy strip from the heaviest shower of the day, you can understand why spectators in these parts appear to have have lost interest.

Contrast this with the buzz and excitement generated by the recent one-day internationals at Chester-le-Street, and you can see why there are moves afoot to stage a Test there.

Old Trafford Scoreboard

West Indies won toss

West Indies - First innings

S L Campbell c Thorpe b Gough 2 11 mins, 11 balls A F G Griffith lbw b Caddick 2 25 mins, 19 balls W W Hinds c Stewart b Cork 26 104 mins, 70 balls, 2 fours B C Lara c Thorpe b Gough 13 100 mins, 74 balls, 2 fours *J C Adams not out 16 65 mins, 41 balls, 2 fours R R Sarwan not out 17 55 mins, 43 balls, 1 four Extras (lb5, nb6) 11 Total (for 4, 182 mins, 42 overs) 87 Fall: 1-3 (Campbell), 2-12 (Griffith), 3-49 (Hinds), 4-49 (Lara). To bat: R D Jacobs, F A Rose, C E L Ambrose, R D King, C A Walsh.

Bowling: Gough 15-3-37-2 (nb3) (9-3-18-1 6-0-19-1), Caddick 17-6-31-1 (nb3) (12-5-17-1 5-1-14-0), Cork 10-5-14-1 (1-1-0-0 9-4-14-0).

Progress: Damp outfield prevented start until 12.00pm. Rain stopped play: 12.56, lunch taken 21-2 (Hinds 10, Lara 4) 13 overs. RSP: 1.52-2.12pm 27-2 (Hinds 15, Lara 5) 17.2 overs. RSP: 2.16-5.30pm 27-2 (Hinds 15, Lara 5) 18.2 overs.

50: 126 mins, 29 overs.

England: M A Atherton, M E Trescothick, *N Hussain, A J Stewart, M P Vaughan, G P Thorpe, C White, D G Cork, R D B Croft, A R Caddick, D Gough.

Umpires: D B Cowie and P Willey.

TV replay umpire: K E Palmer.

Match referee: R S Madugalle.

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