Nagamootoo eyes Test debut

The most attractive part of the day was the first, when Ben Smith and Vince Wells continued the partnership they had begun on a rain-hit opening day here, the consequence of which was that Leicestershire became the first side during the current tour to take 300 runs off the West Indian bowling.

The most attractive part of the day was the first, when Ben Smith and Vince Wells continued the partnership they had begun on a rain-hit opening day here, the consequence of which was that Leicestershire became the first side during the current tour to take 300 runs off the West Indian bowling.

Courtney Walsh is not playing in this match but with Curtley Ambrose back from his mid-season rest the tourists were fielding three-quarters of a Test attack, so Leicestershire need not be too modest about their achievement.

Not that Ambrose has been straining every sinew, nor Reon King and Franklyn Rose for that matter, although those two should be wary of complacency. King's figures were less than impressive. Indeed, in two overs yesterday, at the height of the Smith-Wells alliance, he went for 26 runs.

Fielding four quicks is ingrained in West Indies culture but if anyone might be sacrificed for a spinner at Old Trafford then King would be near the top of the list. The threat might be from Mahendra Nagamootoo, who bowls leg breaks. The 24-year-old from Guyana, who has yet to play a Test, was selected to tour after an outstanding season in the Busta Cup, the inter-island domestic competition, in which he took 31 wickets, which made him, jointly with Ambrose, the most successful bowler.

He has been given ample opportunity so far, bowling 23 overs. On a slow, green-tinged pitch he did not turn the ball massively but gave little away. Having claimed two wickets on Friday, Nagamootoo added a third yesterday when Wells tried to hit him over midwicket but missed and stumbled, allowing Ridley Jacobs to gather the ball wide of off stump and execute an easy dismissal.

This broke up the Wells-Smith partnership after the pair had added 152 in 42 overs for the sixth wicket. Wells, who led the assault with 16 boundaries, took some liberties, twice flashing King over the slips, but had looked ready to claim the first century of the series by a county player until he was cut short.

Smith, an elegant batsman, played beautifully at times, never more impressively than with the flowing cover-drive off Ambrose that took the partnership into three figures. He could consider himself unlucky, in the end, having looked comfortable against Ambrose's languid, limb-loosening spell, that there was a surprise waiting in the form of a lifter that had him caught behind, off the glove.

It gave Ambrose his only wicket from 26 overs, although the numbers in the scorebook are fairly meaningless. He bowled 12 no-balls but it would have been a surprise to see him find his rhythm immediately. What happens on Thursday is more important.

Wells, with an eye on the £11,000 offered by sponsors Vodafone to each county that defeats the tourists, declared at lunch, after which the West Indian batting practice was interrupted first by a heavy shower, then by Dominic Williamson nipping one back to trap Sherwin Campbell leg before with his first delivery and Paul Griffith, a 24-year-old seamer making his debut, claiming his maiden wicket with his third when Adrian Griffiths drove loosely to cover.

Chris Gayle, playing while Brian Lara rests a tweaked hamstring, is a contender for the spot likely to be available because of Shivnarine Chanderpaul's wrist injury. He did not enhance his prospects by giving a return catch to the off-spinner Carl Crowe, having scored only 16, but Wavell Hinds cemented his with a 104-ball 50, containing seven fours.

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