August 3, 2000

Rain delays start at Old Trafford

Cornhill Insurance

Perhaps the most crucial match of the 2000 cricket season was set to begin under overcast skies at the historic Old Trafford ground in Manchester, with showers expected for later in the day. Damp conditions led to a delay before play was scheduled to begin at noon. With England and West Indies entering the match at one victory each in the three-match series, the outcome here is critical for both teams.

It is perhaps the veterans on both teams who hold the key. Before play began, awards were made to the two former England captains Mike Atherton, on his home ground, and Alec Stewart on the occasion of their hundredth Test match. They are still England's outstanding batsmen, the two who will be leading the resistance against the two evergreen West Indian pacemen Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. The England bowling attack will be spearheaded by Darren Gough and Andy Caddick, both still in their prime but with perhaps fewer years ahead rather than behind them, while the tourists' batting is as usual built around Brian Lara and captain Jimmy Adams, both in their early thirties. The younger players will probably play comparatively minor roles, although there will be most interest in the performance of debutant Marcus Trescothick for England after his sparkling form in the one-day series.

England go into this match on a high after their victory in that triangular series, before which they pulled off that brilliant and unexpected win over the West Indies at Lord's. They will be confident but wary, knowing that West Indies are likely to be inspired by the return of the rested Ambrose and Walsh; they are twice the team when those two are fit and playing. Victory is crucial to both teams and they know it. A fascinating contest should be in store.

Adams won the toss for West Indies and decided to bat. England omitted Graeme Hick from their twelve.

England: Mike Atherton, Marcus Trescothick, Nasser Hussain (capt), Graham Thorpe, Alec Stewart, Michael Vaughan, Craig White, Dominic Cork, Robert Croft, Andy Caddick, Darren Gough.

West Indies: Sherwin Campbell, Adrian Griffith, Wavell Hinds, Brian Lara, Jimmy Adams (capt), Ramnaresh Sarwan, Ridley Jacobs, Franklyn Rose, Curtly Ambrose, Reon King, Courtney Walsh.