Anorak News | Your Country Needs You

Your Country Needs You

by | 23rd, July 2003

‘ENGLAND will go into tomorrow’s first Test against South Africa as slight favourites after their victory in the one-day series, but the series promises to be a close-run thing.

The best batsman in England

And it is my guess that we will not have a long wait before we welcome back the man who is arguably still the best batsman in England, Graham Thorpe.

Thorpe has been left out of the squad for the first Test, but England do not have a strong enough batting line-up to omit him for long.

Anthony McGrath has done everything England have asked of him up to now, but there is a big difference between scoring two fifties at No.7 against Zimbabwe and batting at No.5 against South Africa.

In many ways, McGrath’s elevation to No.4 in the one-day batting order has muddied the waters of Test selection.

Selection should never have come down to a battle between Thorpe and McGrath for the last batting place because McGrath was not originally picked as a batsman.

Selection should have been between McGrath and Andrew Flintoff for the all-rounder spot, with Thorpe and Robert Key battling it out for the batting slot.

Looked at in that way, Thorpe would surely have been playing at Edgbaston tomorrow – and it would have been Flintoff struggling to justify his inclusion.

The news that Alec Stewart is to retire from Test cricket at the end of the series with South Africa should also strengthen the case for bringing back Thorpe.

Stewart’s replacement (Chris Read or Jamie Foster) will bat at No.7, which means that Flintoff will have to move up to No.6 – thereby putting more pressure on the England top five.

A middle-order of McGrath, Flintoff and, say, Read is not only dangerously inexperienced, but it looks to be short of batting class. Thorpe, Flintoff, Read sounds much more reassuring.

Almost the worst thing that can happen in this Test for the England selectors is for McGrath to score some runs and so make it impossible for them to drop him.

But they must put sentiment aside and make the decision that is best for England in the longer term – and that is undoubtedly to bring back Thorpe.

Posted: 23rd, July 2003 | In: Back pages Comment | TrackBack | Permalink