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Cricket: Atherton not risking England recall

By Myles Hodgson

MICHAEL ATHERTON suggested yesterday that England would be taking a gamble if he were recalled to the Test side as he admitted he is yet to make a complete recovery from his long-standing back problems.

Atherton has been tipped not only for a return but also to captain the side if Nasser Hussain fails to recover from the fractured middle finger he sustained during the nine-wicket second-Test defeat by New Zealand at Lord's. Despite scoring a career-best 268 not out against Glamorgan a fortnight ago, and an unbeaten 95 in Lancashire's National League victory over Hampshire, he says he will need to play more cricket before both he and the specialists are convinced his rehabilitation is complete.

"I was told by the chairman of selectors that I would have to play a lot of cricket and to have no reaction to my back problems before they would consider me again," Atherton said. "I've not heard anything different from him and at the moment I have only played two or three matches. But I have not suffered any reaction so far and I feel good about my form."

After making his comeback in June, Atherton suffered a slight recurrence of his back problem before making his return against Sri Lanka A. However, his recent form has convinced the former England captain he may be finally on the verge of a recovery.

"We seem to have found the root of the problem - an inflamed disc - and hopefully I can go on enjoying my cricket," he said. "But there is a long way to go before I am absolutely sure of being injury-free."