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Anorak | Gough Is Off

Gough Is Off

by | 6th, August 2003

‘WE will learn at the weekend whether either Nasser Hussain or Alec Stewart will follow Darren Gough into international retirement – either voluntarily or otherwise.

Goughie alerts the umpire’s attention to a low-flying David Gower

But there is a good case for at least one of them not being in the starting XI at Trent Bridge and, for my money, it should be Stewart.

It may seem callous to axe Stewart, who has given such sterling service to England over 130 matches, on the back of a couple of dodgy displays.

Sentiment would at least allow for him to say his farewell at his home ground, The Oval, and the chance to lift his batting average above 40 again.

But the English selectors are not paid to be sentimental – they are paid to pick the team that is most likely to win Test matches.

And for my money, that means that Chris Read should come into the side sooner rather than later.

Not only was Stewart disappointing with a bat in his hand in the last Test, but his keeping has not been up to scratch in the past two games.

By announcing his retirement before the series, he may have hoped to pre-empt talk about his future but, if he is not performing on the pitch, then he knows he is vulnerable.

As for Hussain, there is some doubt over his long-term intentions, with mixed messages coming out over whether he will also retire at the end of the series.

With Anthony McGrath surely now about to make way for Graham Thorpe (two Test matches too late), there is definitely room for a younger batsman in England’s top five.

The names of Ed Smith, Vikram Solanki and Robert Key are mentioned, but one worries that any more than three changes could be unsettling to the side.

If Stewart is dropped (which is, I think, unlikely), it would also mean that Andrew Flintoff would bat at six – another reason for not taking any chances with the top order.

Flintoff is highly talented as he showed with his century at Lord’s, but he still averages a very modest 23 and will have to improve on that if he is to be England’s long-term answer in that position.

As for the bowlers, Gough’s retirement means that there is at least one place up for grabs.

With injury depriving England of Matthew Hoggard, Simon Jones and possibly Richard Johnson, it means the selectors are likely to look to James Ormond or James Kirtley.

James Anderson and Steve Harmison will no doubt retain their place, as will Ashley Giles, who not only is Michael Vaughan’s best mate in the England side but is almost the only spinner in England.

However, in the end the fate of this series is not going to depend so much on the personnel in the England side but their application – something that was sadly lacking at Lord’s.



Posted: 6th, August 2003 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink