Brown among variety of England options

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Cricket Correspondent

There is little doubt that England's selectors are becoming an increasingly progressive bunch. Having selected their last squad over the phone, they will select the next one knowing that five of the team have not played any first-class cricket since Lord's.

As the players involved are Michael Atherton (rest), Graeme Hick (rest), Chris Lewis (resting niggle), Peter Martin (rest) and Alan Mullally (no county game), massive changes are clearly not imminent. Whether holding a bat or bucket and spade, the selectors obviously know who they want and while many may feel that Hick would be better off batting his way back to form, the man himself clearly feels he will respond better to a break.

Yet having managed to pull the sabbatical off - by persuading counties to rest players involved at Lord's - England's coach, David Lloyd, is breaking fresh ground. The practice may not be new abroad, but it is here, and this unprecedented step is the clearest indicator yet of how much the selectors' power is increasing.

Ironically, though, the same sacrifice has not been made by Essex, who refused to release Graham Gooch after Raymond Illingworth requested his presence at games other than the one scheduled for Southend, where Essex are playing Surrey.

It is the first time Illingworth has asked Essex to release Gooch, which is not unreasonable, and it appears that the chairman of selectors - still smarting over his fine - has been snubbed for the second time in 10 days. It calls out for a headline reading: "Selector selected. Players not playing".

Even so, with so much recently focused on events off the field, the selectors must not become distracted. With Pakistan following next week's final Test against India at Trent Bridge, the chairman must now decide whether the time is right for England to change tack slightly. If he does - and England faced their first stern task of the summer at Lord's - it will be the bowling that will most readily come under scrutiny.

After two fruity Test pitches, early reports from Trent Bridge are that the surface is so anodyne that Brian Bolus, one of Illingworth's scouts and a former selector himself, reckons a timeless Test could not be concluded upon its benign surface.

Normally that would suit England, for whom a draw would mean a series victory. However, important as that boost may appear, long-term benefits will only emerge if teams are beaten regularly and in all circumstances. If England are to be at their peak against Pakistan, they must dispatch India at Nottingham.

If the pitch does live up to its pre-match billing, both variety and movement will be needed - India had more of both at Lord's - especially if India, who believe in themselves again, are to be bowled out twice. England have to dismiss sides if they want to compete with the best.

For that reason, a genuine swing bowler like Durham's Simon Brown, must join Lewis and Cork. Darren Gough, who has been taking wickets for Yorkshire, may also be a contender, though he mainly relies on reverse inswing later in the innings for his movement. Mullally has done little wrong, but as he does not swing the ball, a bland Trent Bridge is not for him.

With Min Patel bound to get a second cap, there could be pressure on Ronnie Irani to keep his place. Forced to bat out of character at Lord's, Irani responded with great resolve in helping Jack Russell save the match. But if little more could be asked of his batting, the question mark still hangs over his effectiveness as a bowler, and the selectors may well be tempted to try the in-form Mark Ealham instead.

The only other way England could conceivably inject some variety would be to select Yorkshire's Michael Vaughan as an opener who bowls off-spin. With Nick Knight still not properly fit, it would be particularly hard on Alec Stewart were the Surrey skipper to miss out after his efforts at Lord's. However with Illingworth in his current mood, being from a southern county may just have its disadvantages.

My 13: Atherton, Stewart, Hussain, Thorpe, Hick, Irani, Russell, Lewis, Cork, Patel, Martin, Ealham, Brown.

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