Hopeful who made quick impression

What a relief it was at The Oval yesterday to see a new England fast bowler, Peter Martin, run in in his first international match and immediately settle into an excellent length and line. Not only that, he automatically changed his line for the left-handers and never gave the batsmen easy runs off their legs - the trap most modern bowlers fall into.

Martin removed Brian Lara and Jimmy Adams by starting what were inswingers to the left-handers on or outside the off-stump. He also had the right- hander, Sherwin Campbell, caught trying to work a ball away to leg off his stumps and against the swing.

It made one think back to so many recent young hopefuls who have come into the England side to bowl fast and have splayed the ball all over the place. Martin is almost an old-fashioned bowler; he runs in easily for 18 paces, has a nice high action, holds the ball down the seam and knows where it is going.

His county coach, David Lloyd, said during the first one-day international at Trent Bridge that he would always have chosen Martin for the limited- over games. For Test matches, he would pick Glen Chapple, who bowled so well on the A Tour of India last winter. Now, it may be that the selectors will want to hang on to Martin.

But why they also called up Alan Wells and made him sit out the first two matches is difficult to say. If Mike Atherton, whose batting thrives on the captaincy, should lose the job, Wells must be the likely replacement. And he is also an in-form batsman with three centuries to his name this year. Not to play him made no sense.

England's performance at The Oval was in stark contrast to their disappointing display at Trent Bridge, where the only exception was Alec Stewart, who showed yet again how he can rise to the big occasion.

However, not even his cover driving could match the supreme elegance of Carl Hooper's later on Wednesday. Only the most hopelessly one-eyed watchers could grow bored of seeing Hooper bat. He is incapable of an ugly movement and the cover drive which brought him four off the first ball of Phillip Defreitas's second over will not be bettered in a decade. Quite simply, the bat becomes alive in his hands.

Trent Bridge is the smallest of the six English Test grounds and yet one which is warm and intimate, has a vibrant character all of its own and is redolent of cricket. The first Test match was played there against Australia in 1899 when WG Grace was still captain of England and the match was drawn.

One-day cricket has made its mark there too. In the 1983 World Cup Australia played Zimbabwe in a game which most people felt would be a formality. As it was, Zimbabwe's accurate seam bowlers took them to a significant victory.

The spectators were so noisy in their support of Zimbabwe that their own radio commentator, Bob Nixon, was moved to say on air when the excitement was at its greatest: "This could be Harare. It could be Bulawayo but it is Trent Bridge and the Nottingham crowd."

This match was played during the miners' strike and as I drove off the M1 early in the morning on my way to Trent Bridge cars were being stopped by the police since flying pickets had targeted the Ratcliffe on Soar power station nearby.

A young copper looked in at my car window and asked me if I was a flying picket. I shall never forget his look of bemused horror when I gave him a beaming, "My Dear Old Thing".

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