Sarwan rises above indiscipline

Henry Blofeld at Headingley
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The Independent Online

When test matches are played at Headingley or Edgbaston, batsmen seem to arrive expecting to find a poor pitch. In which case one would have thought they would have taken extra care and have done all they could to discipline their batting.

When test matches are played at Headingley or Edgbaston, batsmen seem to arrive expecting to find a poor pitch. In which case one would have thought they would have taken extra care and have done all they could to discipline their batting.

Yet so often the opposite happens and the batsmen play wild and woolly strokes as if every ball will be their last and as a result get themselves out. This was exactly what happened on the first day at Headingley and the West Indies batsmen should be ashamed of themselves.

Sherwin Campbell drove firm-footed at a swinging ball, Adrian Griffith played a scything cut without footwork, Brian Lara left one alone which would have bowled him if it had not hit his pad, and even Jimmy Adams played a wild drive without much footwork and edged the ball into his stumps.

Ramnaresh Sarwan was the only exception and he showed not only that the pitch on this first day was more than playable, but also that he is a batsman England will bowl against for an awful long time in the years to come. He has so much time to spare, his footwork is superb and he has that lovely sense of natural timing which is given to so few.

While England's bowlers did their job well, it was made easier for them than it should have been. None the less, Craig White bowled superbly and thoroughly deserved his first haul of five wickets in a Test innings. When Ray Illingworth, then England's chairman of selectors, first laid his hand on White's shoulder and pronounced him a Test cricketer, it looked like Yorkshire cussedness (if not bias) or an error of judgement. Now, six years later, he is beginning to look the genuine article - the bowler who can bat.

Off a mercifully short run, White works up a considerable pace. He finds a lot of power from his strong shoulders in his delivery stride and was continually bowling on this first day consistently faster than Darren Gough, at between 85 and 90mph. Sarwan was the only batsman to play him with confidence, perhaps because he did not come to the crease with preconceived ideas about the pitch.

White's control has improved and this was illustrated by the ball with which he got rid of Lara. It began on that tantalising length which has a batsman in two minds whether to play back or forwards and Lara also had to decide whether or not to play a stroke for its original line was outside the off stump. He chose not to and was lbw when it swung in and hit him on the pad.

Of course, the pitch looked less friendly when Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh were bowling, but that was only to be expected. On the other hand there did not seem to be much wrong with it when these two were relieved by Reon King and Nixon McLean.

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