Cricket: Bad luck dogs Kent's big man: Alan Igglesden could again be robbed of his Test chance by injury. Glenn Moore reports

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The Independent Online
AS HE LEFT the field at Headingley yesterday, the prospect of being robbed through injury of an England recall for the second time in a month etched on his mind, Alan Igglesden will have wondered what he had done to deserve such ill-luck.

To be struck down again after making such an impressive mental and physical recovery from being forced out at Old Trafford on the eve of the first Test would be a cruel blow, and it will be an anxious Igglesden who gingerly flexes his back this morning.

Should it respond with a stab of pain, Igglesden, and England, must hope he can again repeat his impressive recovery from the injury sustained in fielding practice at Old Trafford. Then, adopting a positive attitude, he missed just one Championship match, taking 13 wickets in three innings on his return.

'It was a huge blow to get injured in Manchester, especially as we knew everyone would get a couple of games,' Igglesden said before bowling at Headingley yesterday. 'It was the big low point of my career but I just had to get over it, it was a freak accident, an occupational hazard, I suppose, but that is in the past now.'

Igglesden's injury is also a blow to his county. It is regarded as one of the maxims of cricket selection that living in the south-east puts a cricketer on the fringe of the Test team before he has even pulled on his whites. But that does not apply to Kent, which has not had an England player since Igglesden's solitary appearance in the ashes of the last Australia series at The Oval four years ago.

Although he was about 17th choice when he made his debut, it is strange that Igglesden, now 28, has taken so long to come into the reckoning. His match figures of 3 for 146, including the wickets of Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Geoff Marsh, were respectable for that summer and he then proved the leading bowler on the A-team tour of Zimbabwe under Keith Fletcher. But after that, nothing.

Then, as now, a number of niggling injuries did not help but while every seamer in the land seemed to be getting a game Igglesden was constantly overlooked. His return to the frame now has much to do with two Australians, Daryl Foster, the guiding force behind Kent's revival, and the Irish-born Martin McCague, who emerged last season as a genuine strike bowler.

After years of carrying the Kent attack on his own, Igglesden is relishing sharing the load. The pair make a potent combination; lean- limbed Igglesden probing with his out-swinger, the broad-chested McCague blasting out batsmen at the other end. 'He runs in and puts it in the right spot, I run in and try and knock their blocks off,' McCague said, eloquently. 'A combination of pace and subtlety,' Foster said, 'they are as good an opening pair as any.'

They have become firm friends and Igglesden has dragged McCague along to Selhurst Park to see Crystal Palace so regularly he continued to follow the falling Eagles even when Igglesden was playing in South Africa this winter.

If McCague's arrival was the catalyst for Igglesden's revival Foster had prepared the way, Igglesden having benefited from his concentration on physical and mental preparation and strength.

'When I first played for Kent we were a talented bunch and had some great wins but were the sort of side teams liked playing,' Igglesden said. 'Now we are very competitive, I don't think anyone looks forward to playing us and we are one of the best sides in the country. We think about the game a lot more beforehand, what we want to achieve individually and as a team.'

Igglesden's achievements this season have been impressive, taking 35 Championship wickets at under 16 to lead the averages. Foster has no doubts about his ability. 'He is much fitter and more mature than in 1989 and I think he will acquit himself very well if he gets the chance,' he said.

Igglesden came from local club cricket, having been overlooked at representative level. 'I was very raw, when I first went to Kent's nets I was a batsmen, but I sprouted up.' When he stopped growing the tape reached 6ft 6in, there was no need to take a box to stand on to Selhurst Park any more, and Kent had a successor to Graham Dilley.

Now he hopes to add to his store of reminiscences of his previous Test appearance. 'My memories of '89 are all good ones,' Igglesden said. 'I was not on the top of my game when I was picked but did a reasonable job. It was an unexpected chance to play and I did not want it to fly by. Everything I did, I tried to remember so I could savour the moments later. Getting the phone call that told me I was picked, my first wicket, playing in front of a big crowd every day - it was like five finals on the trot.'

In Kent the memories are of the previous series, 1985, and Richard Ellison, who bowled England to victory, being particularly successful against Allan Border. Only a dreamer, or the chairman of selectors, believes England can steal the series this year but they could end it with a side of promise - with Igglesden a central figure if his body allows it.

(Photograph omitted)

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