January 26, 2001

Young England with nothing to lose

It's do or die for the Young England side when they take on India in the third youth 'Test' at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium in Hyderabad. Having lost the first 'Test' at Mumbai and followed it up with a draw at Chennai, the visitors have their backs right up against the wall. Well, things aren't really looking up for Tim Boon and his boys.

After the first 'Test', Kent left arm spinner Robert Ferley, Worcestershire middle order bat Kadeer Ali and Lancashire all rounder Kyle Hogg had to be content carrying the drinks. The three talented youngsters had to sit out the second 'Test' at Chennai and watch with growing disappointment as a spectacular opening stand of 391 from Gautam Gambhir and Vinayak Mane in the second innings put paid to all chances of an England victory.

The game at Chennai however could, and would have taught the England management some tough lessons. After bowling out India for just 231 and enforcing the follow on, England had no answer to the onslaught of Mane and Gambhir. Frontline medium pacers Andrew McGarry and Justin Bishop were so knackered by the time the Indian second innings started, there was little they could do but go through the motions. McGarry in particular has been so sharp in his early spells that he has troubled every top order batsman. If he isn't used properly though, he is certain to lose his sting, and with it his confidence. "I'm the sort of bowler who looks to take early wickets for the side. I'm not really going to bowl long spells - although I'm very aware that I need to improve my fitness - I have to look to get batsmen out every time I bowl, " said McGarry recently.

The other case in point is the back-up bowlers England have. Chris Tremlett impressed in the first innings by bowling an impeccable line and length. In the second innings however, Tremlett completely lost his line and length. "In England I'm used to bowling spells of seven or eight overs at a time. Here, it's more like four or five overs in a spell. It's so hot and humid that you just have to get a lot of water on board and do your best," conceded Tremlett.

And to the crux of the issue. England's spinner, Monty Panesar. With all due respect to the young man, Panesar really has not come good so far. Apart from picking up just four wickets at an average of 80, Panesar has also conceded far too many runs in his efforts. Letting the Indian batsmen off the hook with too many loose deliveries, Panesar inspired little confidence. His performance so far has all but paved the way for Ferley's re-entry. The bubbly left-arm spinner now has the ball truly in his court. With his attitude, Ferley could easily prove to be a match-winner. They key for the English is to launch an all-out attack. After all, 0-2 isn't that much worse than 0-1. There's only a slender chance that this series can be levelled. England have to grab that - it's all they've got.

The visitors' cause would certainly have been helped if they got a sporting wicket at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium. That unfortunately is unlikely. The pitch looks flat hard and is very light coloured. There are no obvious cracks on the surface and as expected, no live grass either. Can England pull off a miracle? They certainly have to if they want to return home with the scores even.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck Gujarat on Friday morning, the one-dayer scheduled for Ahmedabad on February 6, may be shifted. The two Indian players hailing from the city, Parthiv Patel and Siddarth Trivedi, called up home to find their families were safe but there had been widespread damage in the neighbourhood. The England team management is leaving it to the ECB to sort out any alternative arrangements with the BCCI.