We must hope that Chris Lewis can become the batting all-rounder England need rather than just another of the surplus bowling ones

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The Independent Online
It's the day before the first Test of a big series. A time for looking forward. Predictions are hopeless in cricket, so let's try some hopes instead. A few go without saying: that the sun will shine, the crowds (already on course for a series record) will be entertained, and England will win. Here is a Top 10 of wishes that are not quite so automatic.

1. That one England batsman compiles a really big score. A modest wish, but one that has not been fulfilled for a long time. No batsman currently available has ever made a Test double hundred. Mike Atherton, who seems to have all the requisite patience and hunger, has a top score of 151, made in his third Test. Asked recently why England don't get big individual scores, he said he didn't know, but pointed out that it's easier to do so if you score fast, like Lara. If so, England should be good at it: Atherton apart, all their batsmen are natural attackers.

2. That batsmen from both sides rediscover the art of acknowledgement. It used to be standard practice, on reaching a multiple of 50, to doff your cap and wave your bat. Now it's standard practice to keep your helmet on and poke your bat towards your mates in the dressing-room. Spectators don't have to be old farts to find this rude and graceless.

3. That ball-tampering will not be an issue. The subject is a bore. It's true that the laws are poorly worded, and both sides will probably bend them a bit. But with no lethal reverse-swingers on show (unless Darren Gough makes another giant leap) it won't make much difference.

4. That if all Ray Illingworth can find to say about a player is that he's "a good pro who won't let anyone down", it occurs to him that maybe it's a mistake to pluck him from obscurity over the heads of people who have done well for the A Team.

5. That Atherton continues to dictate terms as he did in the Texaco Trophy decider. His batting as captain has been impeccable, but he has seldom forced the bowlers to change their game plan. At Lord's 10 days ago, he was a different person.

6. That Chris Lewis plays for Nottinghamshire as a batsman while recovering from his latest injury (a compressed fracture of the hip), makes some runs, and reinvents himself as the batting all-rounder England need rather than just another of the bowling ones of which they have a surplus. Lewis is a natural strokemaker with an exceptional eye and an appetite for big scores (see 1, above). He has it in him to be a rich man's Craig White, batting at No 6, stopping everything in the gully, and bowling the odd short, hostile spell.

In one-day games, with his reverse swing and good slower ball, Lewis would still bowl a full quota and by bowling less, he would get fewer injuries.

7. That one of the umpires for the Third Test falls ill on the first morning (nothing serious, of course), so that John Holder, the third umpire, steps in. Holder was dropped from the Test panel in 1992 for reasons that have never been explained. It was rumoured to have had something to do with warning Graham Gooch about the state of the ball during England's victory at The Oval when the West Indies were last here. In other words, he may have been dropped for doing his job, which is a shame as Holder is widely reckoned to be a good umpire.

8. That Mark Ramprakash is given a guaranteed run in the side, and therefore scores his first Test hundred. He has all it takes: talent, desire, toughness, concentration. But in 15 Tests the closest he has got was 72, at Perth in February. When the hundred finally comes, it will surely be followed by another.

9. That England play two spinners (not counting Graeme Hick) in the same team. When Illingworth took over, a year ago, there were high hopes of this. His first Test squad contained Peter Such and Richard Stemp (who was 12th man). But it never happened, not even in Sydney. This year - when there are three spinners on the selection panel, four if you count retired Cambridge University leggies - the corresponding squad contains only Richard Illingworth, who is a slow bowler but has seldom been found spinning the ball.

10. That the television commentators, whether on the BBC or Sky, abandon the habit of constantly referring to players by their first and second names. This is a Channel 9 tradition, which apparently arose out of a desire to get more women watching. Why it was thought that women would be put off by surnames only was not explained. It doesn't stop them wearing Chanel, or going to Shakespeare. The habit is patronising to the occasional viewer, and downright infuriating for the faithful.