February 27, 2001

Sarwan quashes England 'A' Busta hopes

England A saw their Busta International Shield title hopes slide away into the Georgetown culverts today after Ramnaresh Sarwan put paid to their semi-final plans to win first innings points against Guyana.

The 20 year-old Test batsman made 110 from 274 balls in an innings spanning just over six hours. It was his fifth first class century and his first on home soil and while Carl Hooper exhibited power and good judgement for his 91 yesterday, the hugely talented Sarwan showed patience and good timing, steering his side past the 293 target set by England A to secure first innings points.

Now, all Guyana have to do to progress through to the final next weekend is to draw this match. England A meanwhile have to complete an outright win to qualify and after losing both Ian Ward, John Crawley and Michael Powell in the closing stages, this task has taken on gargantuan proportions.

England A's batsmen played enterprisingly in the final session, their wickets falling in the chase for quick runs as they sought to build up a big second innings total and leave themselves with enough time on the final day to bowl Guyana out.

The opening stand between Ian Ward and Michael Powell was one of the best of the tour so far, as both players took risks to get the ball away. Ward pulled Mahendra Nagamootoo over mid wicket for six and Powell attempted his trademark reverse sweeps, two of which spun to the boundary.

But with the total on 124, Ward tried the pull shot again, this time to pace bowler Reon King but Carl Hooper was in line to take an easy catch at mid wicket and the Surrey opener, who has enjoyed a successful tour with the bat was dispatched having made 56.

Crawley faced two balls before he became King's second victim, struck on the pads to receive an immediate verdict from umpire Eddie Nicholls and Powell went the same way, in the over before stumps, having struck a impressive 59, his half century coming from 103 balls and three fours.

By the close, England A were 165 for three, having scored at more than four an over in the 39 bowled in the innings and their lead over Guyana had extended to 129 runs.

It could have been more had Sarwan not played a faultless innings, denying England A any chance of a sniff at his wicket.

He struck 12 boundaries, leaving no quarter of the Bourda ground untouched and received rousing encouragement from a small but boisterous crowd who in between barracking for Sarwan found enough energy to make Ryan Sidebottom's life uncomfortable, his spectacular hair, ambitious footballing displays and aggression attracting a series of insults from the folk behind long on.

There was a delay as a stray dog wandered onto the field and mooched around, untroubled by any official for more than five minutes. It even found time to make a deposit, under the nose of an irritated Ward who gestured to the groundstaff for one of them to come and clear it away, quickly.

Clearly he too was getting stick from the crowd since he then suggested the poop be scooped in their direction, prompting the biggest reaction of the day.

Sarwan's innings came to a close when he finally holed out to Ward at long on off Graeme Swann's bowling, in a spinners spell that saw that last three wickets fall for 21, both Swann and Chris Schofield earning four wickets a piece.

Guyana made 336, a lead of 43 runs but according to England A coach Peter Moores, a plan of action for the remaining sessions was formulated and immediately deployed.

"We knew we had to get runs quickly and decided we wanted to put at least 160 on the board by the close of play. Our openers played extremely well and we were happy that we made quick progress" he said.

"It would have been nice to have got Sarwan out sooner but he played extremely well and although we bowled well, he didn't offer up too many opportunities.

"Tomorrow we will aim to get around 250 but the key thing is leaving ourselves with around 60 overs to bowl them out and then I think we are still in with a very good chance of winning.

"Our policy is all or nothing. We are definitely prepared to sacrifice a defeat in the pursuit of victory because we badly want to get into the final so we know what we have to do" he said.