Vaughan is ready to face West Indies' 'chin music'

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The Independent Online

In the 1980s "chin music" was a term regularly used by English batsmen when they were asked to describe what it was like batting against the West Indian fast bowlers. The expression became popular because "Come on Macko [(Malcolm Marshall], let him have some chin music," was a way the West Indian fielders used to encourage their bowlers. By this they meant they wanted to see another 95mph short ball whistle past the chin of a petrified England batsman.

It is six years since England last toured the Caribbean but the tale has obviously been relayed to Michael Vaughan. "You expect to face a bit of 'chin music' when you come to these parts," said the England captain.

In an effort to prepare the team for the challenge, England have come up with a novel way of practising. It involves a batsman standing five or six yards away from a slip cradle. Balls are then thrown at the cradle and it is his job to avoid being hit and to play the ball. The different pace and direction that the ball leaves the corrugated cradle will help sharpen up a batsman's reactions, as well as get them used to playing deliveries aimed at the chest and head.

"When you go to Sri Lanka you practise playing spin but here you look to practise a little bit more of the short stuff," said Vaughan.

It is right that Vaughan should be one of the players practising this because on previous tours it has been a West Indian tactic to target the opposing captain. In 1994, Michael Atherton was given a good going-over by Courtney Walsh and Brian Lara, the West Indies captain, will be hoping that the fast bowlers England play against in their two warm-up matches will do the same to Vaughan.

This prospect did not appear to worry Vaughan on the eve of England's first game against Jamaica. "As an opening batsmen I am used to it," he said. "Ten or 20 years ago there was a lot of 'chin music' over here but I think the wickets have calmed down a bit since then."

When England bat in today's match they will be given a good idea of what to expect over the coming weeks because the Jamaican side they play against contains possibly the fastest bowler in the Caribbean.

Jermaine Lawson has made quite an impression during his seven Test matches for the West Indies, with best figures of 7 for 78 during a victory over Australia last May in Antigua. This, however, was the last time he played Test cricket.

During the Australian second innings he damaged his back and his bowling action was reported to the International Cricket Council by the umpires and the match referee. Remedial work took place on his action once his back healed and he knows that wickets here will give him a great chance to force his way back into the Test side.

The lack of competitive cricket before the first Test - which starts in 10 days' time - gives Vaughan and his fellow selectors little time to experiment and look at alternatives to those who had a disappointing tour of Sri Lanka before Christmas. At the end of the series it was felt there would be changes to the side which was thrashed in Colombo, but during England's nine-week break views appear to have changed.

Jamaica have helped England by agreeing to the visitors' request for a 12-a-side match, but the benefit gained through an extra player getting practice has to be weighed up against the loss in intensity caused by the game no longer carrying first-class status.

Simon Jones is the only player not considered for selection, as the Glamorgan fast bowler only arrives in Jamaica today.

* Stuart Williams, the former West Indies batsman, has had the little finger of his right hand amputated. He fractured the finger playing for the Leeward Islands in early February and a decision was made to amputate after gangrene set in. The medical attention Williams received is being looked into by the West Indies Players' Association.