Hollow win for everyone but Thorpe

Angus Fraser
Sunday 07 March 2004 01:00

Michael Vaughan clinched his first victory in the Caribbean in some style when England's bowlers blew away a dispirited and disappointing Vice-Chancellor's XI for 70 in just 24 overs. The demolition sealed a convincing innings and 85 run victory for the England captain and finished off a successful week.

The win will do wonders for the confidence, but the conditions and the opposition here at Mona Vale bore little resemblance to those they will meet in Thursday's First Test at Sabina Park. England played good aggressive cricket for two days of a one-sided match and thoroughly deserved their win, but it is hard to imagine Brian Lara and co being quite so co-operative.

The form of the bowlers will have delighted Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, but the sight of Graham Thorpe batting for two and a half hours would have given the pair even greater satisfaction. Thorpe has played classier innings for England than his 55 yesterday, but the left-hander's immediate form was of little concern. All that mattered was that he spent time at the crease and showed no sign of discomfort. A back spasm had kept the 34-year-old off the field for all but an hour of Friday's play, and given his history of back trouble there were immediate doubts that he would be fit enough for the Test.

The home side had folded spectacularly enough in their first innings, losing eight wickets for 31 runs in18 overs. But they outdid even that yesterday. The openers added 41 in the first 12 overs but their dismissal sparked a collapse which saw nine wickets fall for 29 runs in 12 overs. As in the first innings the scalps were shared, but the initial damage was inflicted by Matthew Hoggard and Ashley Giles, who shared six wickets in a remarkable seven-over period.

Vaughan then changed the bowling to ensure that Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones also had a final workout before the Test ­ and the wickets continued to tumble, with Jones ripping out the last three batsmen in just two overs.

On a pitch showing as many cracks as Tony Blair's Cabinet batting was always always going to be a lottery but the approach of England's opponents was woeful. Several were out slogging and only Dwayne Bravo could blame the pitch for his dismissal, when a grubber trapped him plumb in front.

England owed their competitive total of 274 to Thorpe's occupation of the crease. After the early loss of Nasser Hussain the Surrey batsman knuckled down and encouraged several of his team-mates to hang around. A first-innings lead of 155 was always going to take some dragging back but few would have expected England's opponents to crumble quite as they did.

Which left one home thought to ponder. Vaughan's team will have to get out of bed 15 minutes earlier this summer after the England and Wales Cricket Board agreed to Channel 4's request that the start of the six Tests they cover be brought forward to 10.30 ­ the second such move in two years. The reason is to stop the cricket interfering with the early evening schedules. The one exception is the Second Test against New Zealand at Headingley, which will be covered by Sky, who are happy with an 11.0am start.

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