Captain gives batsmen a hint

Derek Hodgson finds Mike Atherton happy but yearning for balanced team
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The Independent Online
Mike Atherton, the England captain, conceded that he and his four fellow selectors are still no nearer finding a balanced England side, let alone the missing all-rounder.

Alec Stewart, a roaring success as a restored opener, made it clear he has no wish to take the wicketkeeping gloves again in order for the side to retain six specialist batsmen.

"There is no better keeper in the world than Jack Russell and it would be very unfair if he were left out," Stewart said. "It's very hard to do both jobs at Test level and it is important, to me, to know where I am batting as soon as possible."

Atherton, who himself tried to fill the all-rounder bill with seven overs of leg-breaks - and the wicket of the Pakistan captain, Wasim Akram - was clearly pleased with his six-man batting squad. "They played well as a unit. It's so unfortunate that not one of them can bowl.

"The game plan here was to bowl them out and make enough to put them under pressure. We didn't bowl well enough when the conditions were helpful, but I'm pleased with the performance, our best since Centurion Park in South Africa. We've got out of the habit of losing, now we've got to get into the habit of winning."

And The Oval? "We have won matches there with four bowlers, but we know the pitch will be faster and we shall have to revise the game plan, possibly bringing in Ian Salisbury or others."

As to the Stewart/Russell question: "Stewie is in good nick as an opener and Jack has played well for a year and a half, but I'm only one selector."

No one actually put the question of Graeme Hick, but he remains the one Test class batsman who can bowl at this level.

Wasim, in turn, promised a death or glory charge in the last Test despite his 1-0 lead in the series. "We shall be playing to win, looking for a 2-0 result. We're not interested in a draw.

"The pitch here was difficult in our first innings and then eased off when England batted. I am not bowling well, Mushtaq had little luck and Waqar had problems with his run-up. The ground is not level.

"Aamir Sohail [his vice-captain] will be fit to return at The Oval on what is a level ground and where we are expecting more bounce."

Yorkshire, meanwhile, were cheered by the news of the pounds 7.1m grant to Hampshire, from the National Lottery. Yorkshire are trying to raise pounds 50m to build a new 25,000-capacity Test ground near the A1 or at the junction of the M1 and M62.

Nottinghamshire are now optimistic about winning the near pounds 4m they need to rebuild the Radcliffe Road End at Trent Bridge and MCC will be hoping that its application to redevelop the Grandstand at Lord's will receive a more favourable reception.

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