24 May 1996

Regenerated Lewis steps up with the bald facts

Texaco Trophy: Surrey man becomes a model of his true self as he counters dross served up by Cork and Martin , says Martin Johnson

ON RECENT form at least, beating England does not so much represent a prized scalp as the removal of a bald man`s wig, although when someone whose head is shiny enough to use as a shaving mirror is fit and firing, they are a different side.

However, just about the only ailment Chris Lewis has failed to contract down the years is dandruff, and yesterday`s performance illustrated precisely why his team-mates are ei- ther taking their hats off to him, or tearing their hair out.

The Barmy Army, mercifully absent from home internationals, used to chant about there being "only one Chris Lewis", although inhabitants of the various dressing-rooms that Lewis has either changed in or felt faint in were unanimous in the belief that there were more varieties of Lewis than Heinz.

Even Lewis appears to think that there is more than one of him, as he constantly refers to someone else of the same name.

Ergo "Chris Lewis knows what`s best for Chris Lewis . . even have said to Michael Atherton yesterday: "Skipper, I`ve had a word with Chris Lewis, and would you mind if Chris Lewis could have third man moved a little squarer, please?" He is a difficult man to understand, in more ways than one.

One delivery from Lewis in the Jamaica Test came close to turn- ing Jack Russell`s hands into a couple of plates of steak tartare

Three winters ago, when England were touring the West Indies, Lewis underwent so many X-rays that the simplest method of finding out where he was at any precise moment was to turn on a Geiger counter.

However, when a journalist approached the team physio for a full list of Lewis`s injuries, the physio handed him, with a knowing look, a blank sheet of paper. Like Pontius Pilate, he searched hard enough, but could ultimately find nothing wrong with the man.

On that same tour, his team-mates grew visibly more fed up with him, and the collective feeling was that there was pre- cious little point in having a Michelangelo in the dressing-room when all you basically wanted to do was get the ceiling emul- sioned.

One delivery from Lewis in the Jamaica Test came close to turn- ing Jack Russell`s hands into a couple of plates of steak tartare, but other than that the ball thudded into Russell`s gloves with all the venom of a shuttlecock.

Lewis`s talent is such, however, that Surrey had only the fain- test of qualms about signing him from a disillusioned Not- tinghamshire, and the knowledge of what he is capable of per- suaded England to bring him into their Texaco squad on the evi- dence of a handful of county performances.

It is worth remembering that this time last year, Raymond Il- lingworth dismissed him for the summer with the observation: "Chris Lewis? He plays a couple of games, then you don`t see him for weeks."

Yesterday, as England were threatening to see their 291 overtaken in about 30 overs, it brought to mind one of Illingworth`s shrewder observations from last summer`s Tex- aco series. "We have got," he said, "to remind our bowlers that there are six balls in every over."

If only, we thought, Keith Fletcher or Micky Stewart had not failed to alert their troops to this piercing tactical in- sight, English cricket would long since have been one long round of champagne parties and ticker-tape receptions. However, what Illingworth was referring to was England`s propensity for bowling five decent deliveries, then relaxing just sufficiently to allow the opposition a boundary off the sixth one.

His bullish pre-match oratory was backed up with a spell of bowl- ing that turned England from desperate to jubilant in three and a half overs

Yesterday, as India reached 52 for 0 in five overs against some unspeakable dross from Dominic Cork and Peter Martin, Illingworth would happily have settled for reminding his bowlers that while there are still six balls in every over, he would now be prepared to settle for five bad ones in exchange for just one aimed in the vague direction of the stumps.

Lewis, though, was also in the reminder business. His bullish pre-match oratory was backed up with a spell of bowling that turned England from desperate to jubilant in three and a half overs, and his earlier batting hinted at a half-time dressing-room reminder to Illingworth. "Chris Lewis would like to remind the chairman that there are plenty of batting positions he would like to occupy, and No 9 is not among them."

Lewis`s off-the-field engagements recently have included a couple of scantily clad male-modelling assignments, although this has raised considerably fewer eyebrows than the amount of posing he has done in his cricket gear.

Not for the first time, Lewis is threatening a model interna- tional career, but there have been too many false dawns to get carried away just yet.

By the same token, it is probably too early to dismiss Alis- tair Brown as a batsman unlikely to graduate from county des- troyer to international-class player, although Brown`s mission to go out and plunder during the fielding restrictions in the first 15 overs was not exactly a roaring success.

Of the 52 balls Brown faced, he failed to score off 33 of them, and the rapier he wields so regularly for Surrey yester- day bore closer resemblance to a toothpick.

Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http.//www.telegraph.co.uk)