Lloyd upbeat despite low-key finish

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The Independent Online
As champagne corks popped in the England dressing room, the coach, David Lloyd, joined the captain, Mike Atherton, in brushing aside the negative aspects of a low-key draw in the final Test, and talking up their team's chances in the tougher Test to come against Pakistan.

Lloyd insisted: "Although the game here has been a disappointment in some respects, India have two of the best batsmen in the world, one of the best leg-spinners and two fine strike bowlers - and we've beaten them."

Atherton dismissed the suggestion that the series against India had been merely a gentle warm-up for the summer's meatier confrontation. "We've never seen it that way," he said. "And we can draw a lot of plus points from the series, such as the re-emergence of Nasser Hussain and Chris Lewis, the promise shown by Alan Mullally, and the good start made by Ronnie Irani and Mark Ealham."

However, the two found their views on Graeme Hick undermined by chairman of selectors, Raymond Illingworth.

Lloyd said that the Worcestershire batsman's form was not a matter for concern, while Atherton said: "He just had one of those series where things did not work out. I think he will be fine."

But Illingworth, in a television interview, said he thought Hick was tired and described his loss of form as "a mental thing''.

"He needs to go away and become strong in the mind again," Illingworth said.

Illingworth also embarrassed the incumbent captain by naming Hussain as a possible future skipper. Atherton, mustering an awkward response, said that he saw the Essex batsman as "a good tactician and one of the guys I talk to on the field''.

The Sussex player revealed two weeks ago to have failed a drugs test must now face a Test and County Cricket Board drug control panel after analysis of a second urine sample confirmed the presence of a prohibited substance.

Last night, the TCCB would reveal neither the substance involved nor the identity of the player, although the England A fast bowler, Ed Giddins, was named in news reports after the initial announcement.

The player has 14 days to prepare for the three-man panel, who could impose a four-day suspension, fine him up to pounds 1,000, or refer the matter to a full TCCB disciplinary committee.

Tim Lamb, the board's cricket secretary, said: "Other sports may suspend people immediately they have failed a drugs test but that is not the way cricket sees it. We take the view that people are presumed innocent until proved guilty."

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