Trials of Richardson

Sussex v West Indies
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The Independent Online
THE chance straight to Richie Richardson at second slip came softly from the edge of Keith Newell's bat, at hip height. It was much easier than the two the West Indian captain had missed at Lord's - but he dropped it. Richardson's mind must have been elsewhere. It was a costly mistake; Newell, who was on 25 at the time, was still unbeaten as the opening stand passed 200.

Richardson has plenty on his mind. His own poor form undermines his authority as captain; he cannot, apparently, persuade his superstar - Brian Lara - to concentrate long enough to make the big score the team needs in Tests. There was a further irritation last week when Winston Benjamin was sent home, basically for sulking. No one in the West Indies party seems surprised. Benjamin has often been in trouble before.

Richardson ought to have been paying attention, however, because he dropped the catch off the bowling of Benjamin's replacement, Vasbert Drakes, aged 26, from Barbados.

Drakes was due to play in this match anyway - on the Sussex side. He is due to succeed Franklyn Stephenson as the county's overseas player next season; more to the point, he was capped by the West Indies in one day internationals against Australia last winter.

Like the other second-string quicks in the squad - Ottis Gibson and Kenny Benjamin - Drakes is fast but not fearsome. All three were playing yesterday, and Drakes was the pick of them. Despite a tendency to bowl short, he was consistently the most hostile and economical, conceding only 17 runs in his first, nine-over spell.

Sussex won the toss, and on a flat wicket a makeshift opening pair played purposeful but not exhilarating cricket. Opening in the absence of Bill Athey and James Hall, Neil Lenham and Newell took advantage of a slipshod performance in the field. Neil Lenham's hundred, which contained 16 fours, came in just under four hours, and Newell made his highest score in firstclass cricket, beating the 63 he scored on his debut against Glamorgan in May.

Sussex have had no luck this season. The side has been so weakened by injuries that only four specialist batsmen were available for this game. But this hardly mattered, and the large crowd was appreciative but remarkably quiet, although by mid afternoon they were finally making a noise - more about the West Indian errors in the field than the fine, if unspectacular performance of their own opening batsmen.

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