Illingworth prefers to keep a low profile

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The Independent Online
Ray Illingworth, who is an amiably talkative man, does not like press conferences. He has rejected several requests that, as the chairman of selectors, he should appear before the media at the close of play on each day.

He will have registered that his predecessor Ted Dexter - who appeared rarely - left office complaining of being "harpooned and lampooned". The previous manager, Keith Fletcher, was brave to the point of foolishness in his daily duty, gallantly turning up when England had no case to put and no defence to make.

Just how difficult the art of explaining away England's recent performances is illustrated by the experience of the young cricket writer who has reported seven of England's Tests over the past two years, not all in sequence, and seen them lose all seven.

Yet there were good things to say about England's performance yesterday but there was no one to say them. No manager, no captain, no player appeared so West Indies won the day - again. Their manager, Andy Roberts, said he would have been disappointed with a score of 255 for 8. "This is good wicket but one that will deteriorate," he said. "We would have been looking for 500 and we are not too bothered about the England total today. We are hoping we will have to bat only once."

His praise for his bowlers included Ottis Gibson - "the only player I know to make his debut in one-day and Tests at Lord's" - and especially for Carl Hooper: "His off-spin is underrated over here. He is one of the main bowlers for Guyana in the Red Stripe. . ." he left the sentence unfinished but the implication was that Hooper might be a main bowler in this Test if the pitch cracks.

What was saddest about yesterday was that it ought to have been an English triumph. Lord's was a Hal Prince production, music by Lloyd Webber, just the book the disappointment. Lord's changes a little each year; now we have a giant screen for replays, enclosed in a white latticework that blends tastefully with the pavilioned splendour of the Mound Stand.

We have the magnificent new Indoor School rising at the Nursery End and on a perfect summer's day the roses by the Coronation Lawn had bloomed, a deep crimson, right on time. "Just like Ascot" boomed the man in the Harrow Wanderers' tie. Well, yes, but Ascot without the brilliant women and the royal races would boast a few English winners and, no doubt, a few jockeys and trainers to talk about them.

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