England left with only moral victory

Cricket: England 291-8; India 96-5 Match abandoned; no result
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The Independent Online
The spring drought may have ended, but England will have to wait a little longer to see if they can end theirs after persistent rain washed out the first Texaco Trophy match. With the Bank Holiday weekend starting, the game was officially abandoned at 3.55pm, the police warning both teams of a potential seven-hour journey time to Leeds, where the second match of this series is scheduled to begin today.

For a result to be salvaged yesterday, India needed to face a minimum of 25 overs. Had that been possible, a reduced target of 146 would have been set and India would have had to score another 50 runs off 47 balls to win. A not impossible task with players like Mohammad Azharuddin at the crease, but no easy stroll with your side already five wickets down for 96.

There is little doubt then that it was England who came away with what honours were available from a part-completed match and David Lloyd, England's new coach, can look back on a satisfying first performance, despite it being only half realised.

Apart from the two decisive contributions of Graeme Hick with the bat and Chris Lewis with the ball, the most successful of the deliberate tactical gambits was the extension of the batting by packing the side with all- rounders. With Hick conducting the ebullient late-order trio of Ronnie Irani, Mark Ealham and Lewis, 144 runs was added in the final 14 overs.

Curiously, none of the three debutants looked overawed, and if Alistair Brown's booming style was not the instant success it was built up to be, some credit must be given to India's opening bowlers who exploited a helpful pitch with great skill.

Brown knows he was not brought in to bat like Geoff Boycott and he showed a lot of pluck by persevering with his big-hitting game plan despite being cut in half by Javagal Srinath's nip-backers. Despite Neil Smith's enterprising cameo at No 3, Brown is certain to be given another go today, though an overcast Headingley is not usually an ideal place to take bowlers on.

The man of the match was Chris Lewis, whose 21-ball burst of 4 for 6 was the moment of the match. "Thursday was very exciting for me," he said yesterday. "It's nice to be back in the England set-up after such a long while. I'm more focused on cricket and my move to London has helped. But as far as I'm aware, this is not a new Chris Lewis."

It is hard not to agree, for Lewis has produced performances on this scale before, only to disappear for a sabbatical care of Bupa. If nothing has changed, then England would be unwise to base any bowling plans around him this summer, an honour that - over the past year at least - has been bestowed upon Dominic Cork.

Over that year, Cork has proved he is England's premier Test match bowler. It is however, not something that readily applies in one-day cricket and if England are to tinker with their team for today, Cork may be the one to miss out. On Thursday, his two overs with the new ball cost 20 runs as he persisted with a leg-stump attack against Sachin Tendulkar, probably the world's best leg-side player.

Cork is a hot-headed performer, whose aggression and full-length outswing are unsuited to the nagging straightness required by one-day cricket. Because of the low angle of his arm and because he gets in so close to the stumps, a straight ball from Cork comes from middle and leg, an angle that provides all but the tailenders with a four course meal to tuck into.

A straight ball from Lewis' high action tends to come in from outside the off-stump, where even the best tend not to take liberties. Unless Cork can work out another strategy, he is better off saving himself for the Tests.