Lara unsure how to use firepower

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It was West Indian cricket as England have come to know and fear it. A stump was sent cartwheeling 10 yards out of its groove to the accompaniment of a Sabina Park roar that once proclaimed the deeds of Wes Hall, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh and earlier generations of West Indian men of pace.

Edges were clipped or passed, helmets clattered and fingers jammed against the bat handle as England's two most elderly campaigners battled to repair the early loss of their two openers. Fidel Edwards and Tino Best, a pair of eager 22-year-olds, were consistently generating speed well in excess of 90mph. To West Indians impatient for an escape from their prolonged decline, this was a heartening glimpse of what might be.

Yet there were two glaring and significant differences from the glory days of the 1980s.

Even as England stuttered at 33 for 2 and Nasser Hussain and Mark Butcher could hardly lay bat on ball, English batsmen who had endured similar tortures in the past, but now viewed from the safe distance of the press box, marvelled at the lack of supporting aggression from the West Indies captain, Brian Lara. For all Hussain's trials and tribulations, a fielder was put on the cover boundary. He did not touch a ball for the six overs he was there.

The left-handed Butcher, a first-ball victim on his only previous innings on the ground on the nightmare pitch six years ago, this time watched his first delivery from Edwards roll back off his body to within an inch of his off-stump. Time and again, he searched uncertainly to lay bat on ball. He might then have wondered whether it was some ruse to lull him into a false sense of security as the slips were reduced to two and run-saving positions used. He made it through to lunch, his head ringing from Best's last-ball blow to the helmet.

When Butcher and Hussain resumed, at a shaky 57 for 2, they found Best, who had had only five overs, stuck in the outfield while Corey Collymore and Adam Sanford, two bowlers 10mph slower, were used.

Clive Lloyd would have followed Andy Roberts and Michael Holding with Joel Garner and Colin Croft to press the early advantage. Viv Richards would have had a pack featuring Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Patrick Patterson and Ian Bishop.

And Lloyd and Richards would not have had deep covers and sparse slip fields with both openers gone cheaply and two bowlers breathing fire.

But these are, as yet, very different times. The recent successors to Lloyd and Richards - Lara, Jimmy Adams and Carl Hooper - have not had the same lethal ammunition at their disposal and, when the guns do begin to fire, they are still unsure how best to direct them.