Lara and youth to dominate

Sport-BY-SPORT GUIDE TO 1995: Trinidad's finest to set tempo for visit of calypso cricketers as Ryder Cup heads for Rochester : CRICKET
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The Independent Online
If 1994 was the year of Brian Lara, 1995 could be the year of . . . well, probably Brian Lara.

The Trinidadian will find the surroundings comfortably familiar after his extraordinary first summer in Championship cricket. This does not augur well for England's chances of success against Test opponents who last lost here in 1969, when the home side was captained by a certain Raymond Illingworth.

Having feasted on English bowlers to the tune of more than 2,000 Championship runs - hard on the heels of the record-shattering torment to which he had subjected them in the Caribbean - Lara could hardly be better prepared for the six-Test Cornhill Insurance series, which starts at Headingley on 8 June and ends at The Oval in the last week of August. Preceded by three Texaco one-day internationals, the series represents a mouth-watering prospect in a summer which may also illustrate the extent to which Warwickshire's treble was a consequence of Lara's arrival.

In theory, given that the West Indies are rebuilding, England should be capable of maintaining at least their self-respect. Moreover, after two Tests in New Zealand and a four-game home series against Australia, the West Indies may arrive somewhat weary.

Then again, no one has beaten the West Indies in any Test series since 1980 and the record will not be surrendered without a mighty battle, as was illustrated in Chandigarh earlier this month when a determined Courtney Walsh led a substantially under-strength team - lacking Richie Richardson, Desmond Haynes, Winston Benjamin and Curtly Ambrose - to a series-saving victory over India. What is more, any temptation to be optimistic can be set against the certain knowledge that, even in the most promising circumstances, England cricket teams usually find at least one way of shooting themselves in the foot, if not several.

On the domestic front, spectators can look forward to watching an interesting clutch of new overseas players drafted in to cover for absent West Indians.

Among them, Manoj Prabhakar, whose lack of fitness last spring proved so fortuitous for Warwickshire, takes over from Anderson Cummins at Durham. Northamptonshire, having failed to replace Ambrose with Shane Warne, bring in another leg-spinner, India's Anil Kumble.

Two South Africans, Hansie Cronje and Darryl Cullinan, find employment at Leicestershire and Derbyshire; Middlesex, having said farewell to Desmond Haynes, say hello to Dion Nash, the young New Zealand all-rounder who took 11 England wickets at Lord's.

Familiar faces return at Nottinghamshire (Chris Cairns) and Essex (Mark Waugh), while Yorkshire try their luck withMichael Bevan, the left-handed Australian batsman.

But there are English players worth keeping an eye on, too, with youthful talent encouragingly thick on the ground. Among those for whom 1995 can be a year of opportunity, take particular note of Glen Chapple, the 20-year-old Lancashire pace bowler; NickKnight, the left-handed batsman, at Warwickshire from Essex; Min Patel, Kent's left-arm spinner, who was the country's leading wicket-taker in his first full season; and Darren Maddy, the 20-year-old Rapid Cricketline Young Player of 1994 with more than1,000 second XI runs for Leicestershire.