England A face sticky start : CRICKET

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The Independent Online
England A failed to finalise their line-up for today's third "Test" against India A in Chandigarh after giving the city's Sector 16 Stadium pitch a thorough examination yesterday.

Morning practice was put back two hours because of heavy dew and there are fears that the surface to be used for the Test may deteriorate quickly.

The 9am start each day adds another problem for England A's management as they try to come up with the right balance. The seam bowlers may get more movement than is usual in India - certainly in the morning sessions - but local officials predict only that the pitch will take turn from an early stage.

The Warwickshire wicketkeeper, Keith Piper, and the Middlesex seamer Richard Johnson will both definitely play because neither figured in the wins at Bangalore and Calcutta which put the tourists into an unbeatable 2-0 series lead.

Who is left out from the 14 - besides the Leicestershire wicketkeeper Paul Nixon - is by no means clear and a final decision will not be made until just before the start.

The Middlesex all-rounder Paul Weekes, however, is expected to come in for the Yorkshire opener Michael Vaughan, who scored only 19 runs in four innings at Bangalore and Calcutta. And that means the players most under threat from Johnson's inclusion are the spinners Min Patel and Ian Salisbury.

Salisbury, though, may be retained simply because England's selectors will want another good look at his leg-spin in international conditions, and because Patel's fellow left-arm spinner, Richard Stemp, is sure to be included.

Phil Neale, the England A manager, said: "It's difficult to read what the conditions will be like here from just looking at the pitch today. But there is still a bit of grass left on it and judging by the net pitches, it might bounce a little bit early in the day.

"The dew that you get here in northern India means that the pitch will be very wet for virtually the entire first session on every day - but what happens when it dries is open to question.

"The pitch may well crust up in the sun and if that is the case then it will definitely take more and more spin and wider cracks will be created.

"India A have made quite a few changes, and all their players will be out for revenge after their defeats at Bangalore and Calcutta."

David Hemp, the 24-year-old Glamorgan batsman who made a brilliant unbeaten 99 in Calcutta, was suffering from a sore throat and nausea yesterday but is expected to be fit and is likely to bat at No 3.

Jason Gallian will probably move up to open with Nick Knight, who is also expected to play despite suffering a painful blow in the box yesterday. Weekes is expected to take his place at No 5 in the England A batting order.

ENGLAND A (from): N V Knight, J E R Gallian, D L Hemp, A P Wells (capt), P N Weekes, D G Cork, G Chapple, K J Piper (wkt), I D K Salisbury, R L Johnson, R D Stemp, M M Patel, M P Vaughan.

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