Lamb on mission to save Oval Test

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The Independent Online

Tim Lamb is stepping up his efforts to avert a second cricketing crisis between England and India which is threatening to put next summer's Oval Test in doubt.

The final match of the scheduled four-Test series is in trouble because the Board of Control for Cricket in India says it is ready to withdraw its team unless England agree to play a sixth one-day game on the subcontinent early next year. India have added an extra, still more onerous, proviso – that England commit to a five-Test series in 2005 – and Lamb now has carte blanche to conclude urgent negotiations with the BCCI president, Jagmohan Dalmiya.

The England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive has said that it will be difficult to accede to either, let alone both, of India's requests. The options open to England seem to be to hold out for concessions or a compromise solution with the Indians or – as has been suggested in the press – to simply go ahead and arrange a one-off Test against another country at The Oval next year.

An ECB spokesman said after yesterday's meeting at Lord's: "Tim Lamb has been given full authority by the management board to continue and hopefully conclude negotiations with the BCCI in a satisfactory manner as soon as possible.

"We recognise the importance of removing any remaining uncertainty surrounding next September's fourth Test against India at The Oval."

The latest saga comes less than two weeks after the Virender Sehwag affair which threatened to derail England's current series in India, until International Cricket Council diplomats came to a belated agreement with Dalmiya.

The current controversy seems to have plenty of life in it yet, though, and the ECB spokesman added: "Further discussions over the telephone are expected to take place in the near future."

Meanwhile, Sehwag is set to confront England today when the second Test starts in Ahmedabad. The batsman, whose presence in the first-Test squad threatened the future of the series, has been welcomed back into the hosts' XI.

England know very little about the Delhi-born batsman, who was banned for one Test because of excessive appealing on his Test debut in South Africa. Now, having scored a Test hundred on that debut, he is eager to take to the field again.

"What has happened has gone and I think I can play my normal game now," he said. "I have the chance to score runs and perform. Scoring a century on my debut was a good feeling and I want to experience more. This team has always been strong and we are playing just the same, the spirit is good." Sehwag, also a leg-spin bowler, is expected to bat at No 7 to strengthen the middle order.

The experienced seamer Javagal Srinath, who orchestrated South Africa's defeat at the Sardar Patel stadium five years ago with 6 for 21, also returns to the Indian side.

Sehwag has warned England: "If our bowlers, especially the spinners, bowl well we can finish the match in four days but it's better for a Test match to last five days."

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