WET WEATHER, THE VICTOR

Alastair Cook was Man of the Match; Matthew Prior, the wicketkeeper-batsman who made such a fantastic debut, must surely have been every right thinking man's newcomer of the summer, writes Ted Corbett.

By the miserable, wet and unsatisfactory end of the first Test between England and West Indies at Lord's it was the home side who were in trouble and the Windies who had gained strength and confidence from the draw.

West Indies had held off the challenge comfortably although they had all the luck. They won the toss and when they had to face 100 overs to avoid defeat in their second innings the rain fell at the right time.

There was still time to show that West Indies have enough batting strength — even if their captain Ramnaresh Sarwan admits he is worried about the bowling — to contain England.

In fact we should be grateful for the drizzle; it may make this series of four Tests much more competitive.

England had little good fortune. They were already without their captain Michael Vaughan, with a broken finger, and Andrew Flintoff who had further trouble with the ankle that has been the source of so much grief in the last few years. As if that was not bad enough, Matthew Hoggard, their freshest bowler since he had not been at the Australian one-day series nor the World Cup, was a doubt for the rest of the series and would need care if he were not out for most of the season.

Hoggard, regarded by Vaughan and everyone else as the unflagging workhorse, was forced to nurse a strained upper thigh after bowling only 10 overs. Those injuries are tricky. His was called "slight," but that is a misnomer. Other "slight" injuries allow you to play if you have the right treatment.

A strained adductor muscle grows worse if you play while the injury persists. Only rest and treatment will get you back on the field so that Hoggard is likely to be absent for a while.

And then — may we have patience — there is Steve Harmison with whom it is easy to be very impatient indeed.

Wouldn't we all like to be 6ft 5in, to be able to propel the ball down the pitch at approaching 90 miles an hour and make one or two lift towards the batsman's nose?

Of course we would. Having those advantages would we not walk on the field brimming with confidence, certain that even if we do not take wickets we will make the batsman think of running back to the pavilion or sacrifice himself to the guy at the other end?

Would we not practise mightily and, however much we loved home or our children or the sight of the area in which we were raised, relish the thought of a trip into a foreign clime every so often in order to make our fame grow?

But of course.

There is another man who has all the advantages and disadvantages that beset Harmison.

Glenn McGrath is also close to 6ft 6in, also loves rural New South Wales and as for his home life, well you may remember that he has a wife who has had cancer and who he loves to distraction.

Does he love the cricketer's life, relish the battle, raise a raucous cry of pleasure when he takes a wicket and yet, unless I misjudge the man totally, still keeps a daily tack on his wife's health, his children's day at school and the state of the wild stuff that lies around his house.

Harmison might be helped if he uses the example of McGrath; and there is still time. This gangling fast bowler is still only 28, his life at the crease can continue another six years and he can still match McGrath and anyone else in the world wicket for wicket.

So do I think it likely? I do not. I will quote to you once again the wise words of a man who knows him well and who said five or six years ago that "by the time Harmison is 30 he will be captain of Ashington."

Ashington is his local club and that is where Harmison wants to be. Why not? It is his life. But if that is his genuine wish England should stop trying to get the best out of this enigma and look elsewhere for their premier pace bowler.

His figures of one for 117 — at 4.68 an over — in the first innings and one for 138 in the match may be net bowling, according to the new coach Peter Moores who insists on taking "positives" from every fact, statistic and action.

I hope Moores, a bright man, is right and that Lord's was simply a net for big Harmy; even though he had taken 25 first class wickets before this Test.

If it proves to be true form then I think it is time that Harmison was sent back to his beloved north-east and that England tested the resolve of 24-year-old Graham Onions, also from Durham, who is tall enough, accurate and capable of bowling just as fast.

No need to try out the determination of Monty Panesar. His batting is sub-club level, his fielding is schoolboy enthusiastic at best but he is such a beautiful bowler we can forgive him every other fault.

His bowling on this pitch demonstrated just what can be obtained by a little guile, a controlled loop and the minimum of turn. Five lbws — and it appeared that the newish umpire Asad Rauf got every decision precisely right — is evidence that Panesar is a thinking man's slow left arm bowler, as much as Wilfred Rhodes, as Johnny Wardle or Derek Underwood who, although he was a mile or two quicker still used his brain to get victims without ever having to resort to big turn or exotic methods.

West Indies won the toss, which was their biggest saviour since England must surely have used the green pitch better. Alastair Cook, Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell and the extraordinary newcomer Matt Prior all made hundreds.

Cook was man of the match; Prior must surely have been every right thinking man's newcomer of the summer. I wait to make a final judgement since this was scarcely the pitch on which to judge a 'keeper although he has been without fault so far.

I like the cut of his jib since it appears that not only has he got a terrific eye, the ability to take advantage of a solid start by the first five batsmen, but his clothing must have been especially tailored so neatly does it fit his stocky figure.

By the end of the England innings he was attracting sneers that his two-hour hundred had been made off Chris Gayle and Sarwan and that he had yet to be tested. In the second innings he made 21 with two fours and two sixes off nine balls. Was that testing enough?

Whether he turns out to be the right man in the long run or not he has a perfect idea of what the situation requires and seems able to deliver.

Prior has grabbed the wicket-keeping job for the rest of the Tests and that, for his mentor Moores and the England selectors was the best result of a Test that died in the wet.

THE SCORES

England v West Indies, Lord's, London, May 17-21, 2007. Result: Match drawn.

England 1st innings: A. J. Strauss c Smith b Powell 33; A. N. Cook c Bravo b Taylor 105; O. A. Shah c Smith b Powell 6; K. P. Pietersen c Smith b Collymore 26; P. D. Collingwood b Bravo 111; I. R. Bell (not out) 109; M. J. Prior (not out) 126; Extras (b-8, lb-17, w-8, nb-4) 37. Total (for 5 wkts decl.) 553.

Fall of wickets: 1-88, 2-103, 3-162, 4-219, 5-363.

West Indies bowling: Powell 37-9-113-2; Taylor 24-4-114-1; Collymore 32-5-110-1; Bravo 32-8-106-1; Gayle 10-0-48-0; R. S. Morton 1-0-4-0; R. S. Sarwan 6-0-33-0.

West Indies 1st innings: C. H. Gayle b Plunkett 30; D. Ganga lbw Panesar 49; D. S. Smith b Panesar 21; R. R. Sarwan lbw Panesar 35; S. Chanderpaul lbw Panesar 74; R. S. Morton lbw Panesar 14; D. J. Bravo c Cook b Collingwood 56; D. Ramdin c Collingwood b Plunkett 60; D. B. L. Powell (not out) 36; J. E. Taylor c sub (L. J. Hodgson) b Harmison 21; C. D. Collymore lbw Panesar 1; Extras (b-4, lb-17, w-16, nb-3) 40. Total 437.

Fall of wickets: 1-38, 2-83, 3-151, 4-165, 5-187, 6-279, 7-362, 8-387, 9-424.

England bowling: M. J. Hoggard 10.1-3-29-0; S. J. Harmison 28-2-117-1; L. E. Plunkett 30-7-107-2; P. D. Collingwood 11.5-2-34-1; M. S. Panesar 36.1-3-129-6.

England 2nd innings: A. J. Strauss c Morton b Collymore 24; A. N. Cook c Ramdin b Collymore 65; O. A. Shah c Ramdin b Collymore 4; K. P. Pietersen lbw Gayle 109; P. D. Collingwood c Morton b Bravo 34; I. R. Bell c Ganga b Bravo 3; M. J. Prior c Bravo b Gayle 21; L. E. Plunkett st. Ramdin b Gayle 0; S. J. Harmison (not out) 11; M. S. Panesar (not out) 3; Extras (b-1, lb-3, w-1, nb-5) 10. Total (for 8 wkts decl) 284.

Fall of wickets: 1-35, 2-51, 3-139, 4-241, 5-248, 6-264, 7-264, 8-271.

West Indies bowling: Powell 9-0-44-0; C. D. Collymore 15-1-58-3; C. H. Gayle 20.5-4-66-3; D. J. Bravo 18-2-91-2; J. E. Taylor 4-0-21-0.

West Indies 2nd innings: C. H. Gayle (not out) 47; D. Ganga (not out) 31; Extras (b-4, lb-3, w-3, nb-1) 11. Total (for no loss) 89.

England bowling: S. J. Harmison 8-1-21-0; L. E. Plunkett 11-1-48-0; M. S. Panesar 3-0-13-0.