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Anorak | On The Right Track

On The Right Track

by | 9th, June 2003

‘HAVING beaten Zimbabwe twice in just six days of cricket, won back-to-back Tests by an innings for the first time in 18 years and recorded their third Test win in a row, England should by rights be looking forward to the rest of the summer.

Nasser can still bodypop with the best of them

No-one is under any illusions but that South Africa will provide a much harder test than their neighbours.

However, assuming that there are no major injury concerns between now and mid-July (which is, admittedly a big ‘if’, given recent history), England can pick from a position of strength.

In certain positions at least, England at last seem to have genuine competition for places – especially, in the fast bowling department.

If everyone is fit, they will have to pick three from seven – James Anderson, Andrew Caddick, Darren Gough, Steve Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Richard Johnson and Simon Jones.

It is a rare luxury for selectors who in recent matches have been more likely to perform a headcount a couple of days before the Test to check whether they had three fit players to send out.

Assuming Andrew Flintoff’s shoulder has recovered sufficiently to allow him to bowl, there will be another dilemma at No.7.

Anthony McGrath has scored a fifty in both his Test innings so far and has bowling figures of 3-16 from the only six overs he has bowled.

The selectors could not have asked more of him, but whether he has done enough to retain his place is a very different matter.

Flintoff is in brilliant form with the bat for Lancashire this season, with a first-class average of over 100 and he is, when fit, a more penetrative bowler than McGrath.

Much, one imagines, will depend on their relative performances in the one-day games coming up.

Similarly, England will be hoping that at least one of the young batsmen chosen for the limited-overs games stakes a claim to a Test place.

Nasser Hussain looks in very poor touch at the moment, not helped by the lack of cricket he has played. And Robert Key may have exhausted his chances.

Key, at least, gets a chance with the one-dayers to show that he can score big runs at this level.

The one area where England do lag behind almost every other country in the world, however, is with spin-bowling.

English wickets may not be particularly conducive to spin (especially at this time of year), but that hasn’t stopped visiting spinners having a fair bit of success.

Ashley Giles, by contrast, took just a single wicket in the two matches – but is under no threat for his place because there simply isn’t anyone to replace him.

This is the area that really needs to be addressed if England are to field a team capable of unsettling Australia when they next visit in 2005.



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