Cricket: Benjamin called up to swing for the new England: Tufnell's chance against South Africa

Click to follow
The Independent Online
AT AN age when most pace bowlers divide their day between nursing aching limbs and pondering post-benefit careers, Joey Benjamin is set to make his England debut.

The Surrey bowler, 33 and never within a mile of international cricket before this summer, was yesterday called into the second Test squad to play South Africa at Headingley on Thursday.

Also included is the Middlesex left-arm spinner Phil Tufnell, who a month ago was facing the possibility of a prison sentence for assault, and, belatedly, the Surrey batsman, Graham Thorpe.

Ian Salisbury makes way from the side beaten by 356 runs at Lord's last week, along with Shaun Udal, 12th man there. Tufnell's greater accuracy was preferred.

Benjamin - no relation to the West Indian bowlers, Kenny and Winston - is currently playing the best cricket of a first-class career that began at 27 and took off only two years ago.

Born in St Kitts, in the West Indies, he moved to England with his family at 15, settling in the Birmingham area. Having failed to attract any county interest as a youngster, he contented himself with Birmingham League cricket, interspersed with appearances for Staffordshire.

Good displays in both grades brought a contract offer from Warwickshire in 1988. But with the likes of Gladstone Small, Tim Munton - who must have been close to being named yesterday - and Allan Donald ahead of him, chances were limited and four years later, he joined Surrey.

Last season, he took 64 wickets (compared to 109 over the previous five seasons) and was the county's player of the year. This year, he has taken 69 at 18.62 and only Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh are ahead of him in the averages.

Though his outswingers should be well suited to Headingley, Ray Illingworth, the chairman of selectors, made it clear he was not just a one-off choice. 'Although he is 33, he has been bowling well and we might get two or three years out of him. He might buy us a bit of time.'

Tufnell's recall was equally unexpected. He has only played four matches since returning to cricket after domestic problems led him to be fined for assaulting the mother of his daughter.

The 28-year-old's four-year England career has included a number of controversial incidents and Illingworth admitted this recall effectively marks Tufnell's last chance.

'He has played quite a bit since the case and Fred Titmus has watched him and is quite happy with his form,' Illingworth said. 'We welcome him back, we think he can bowl at this level, but he is not to step out of line again. If he is not right, it is better we find out now than in Australia this winter.'

Thorpe's return was less of a surprise, though given the selectors' attitude towards him this season, he would not have been taking anything for granted.

After making a century on his debut against Australia last summer, then emerging with credit from the West Indies tour, Thorpe should never have been dropped. But he paid for the return of Graham Gooch and Illingworth's insistence on having an all- rounder at No 6. That policy appears to be jettisoned for the time being for although Craig White is in the squad, he will bat at No 7 and serve as a fourth seamer, if he plays at all. His shin injury may rule him out anyway.

Thorpe will bat at No 4 but the rest of the order will be revealed later, which suggests there will be changes, possibly with Gooch opening.

Illingworth - who came as close as he is likely to come to admitting Thorpe should have played at Lord's - added that a second left-hander, had there been one around, might well have played. Not for the first time this season, one 37-year-old BBC commentator may be thinking wistfully what might have been.

Assuming Darren Gough, Angus Fraser and Phillip DeFreitas have all overcome their minor injuries, either Benjamin or Tufnell is likely to be left out with White. The wicket could be damp. Leeds had heavy rain over the weekend and more is expected.

Last year, England decided against choosing either a Headingley specialist (as they had successfully done in the past with Neil Mallender and Steve Watkin), or a spinner. Their first innings was destroyed by Paul Reiffel, as much a Headingley-type bowler as any English seamer; their second by the off-spinner Tim May.

It was also the end of Gooch's reign, and the precursor of Atherton's. A year and 12 Tests into the job he nearly lost last week, Atherton badly needs his fourth victory. Unless recent traumatic events have considerably strengthened the resolve of captain and team, he will not get it.

----------------------------------------------------------------- TEST AVERAGES OF THE ENGLAND SQUAD ----------------------------------------------------------------- BATTING T I NO Runs HS Ave 100 50 Ct St M A Atherton. . . . . . .38 70 1 2738 151 39.68 7 17 29 0 J P Crawley. . . . . . . .1 2 0 16 9 8.00 0 0 2 0 P A J DeFreitas. . . . . 37 56 5 717 69 14.05 0 3 11 0 A R C Fraser. . . . . . .20 28 4 174 29 7.25 0 0 6 0 G A Gooch. . . . . . . .111 201 6 8564 333 43.91 20 45 103 0 D Gough. . . . . . . . . 2 3 1 77 65 38.50 0 1 0 0 G A Hick. . . . . . . . 27 46 0 1470 178 31.95 1 8 39 0 S J Rhodes. . . . . . . .4 6 3 146 49 48.66 0 0 17 1 A J Stewart. . . . . . .41 75 4 2795 190 39.36 7 13 51 4 G P Thorpe. . . . . . . .8 15 1 469 114* 33.50 1 3 12 0 P C R Tufnell. . . . . .17 25 14 56 22* 5.09 0 0 7 0 C White. . . . . . . . . 4 6 0 131 51 21.83 0 1 3 0 BOWLING O M R W Ave 5w 10w BB M A Atherton. . . . . . 61 11 282 1 282.00 0 0 1-60 J P Crawley. . . . . . . - - - - - - - - P A J DeFreitas. . .1347.1 309 3779 116 32.57 4 0 7-70 A R C Fraser. . . . .906.1 218 2259 83 27.21 6 0 8-75 G A Gooch. . . . . . 414.3 116 986 22 44.81 0 0 3-39 D Gough. . . . . . . .95.2 18 274 14 19.57 0 0 4-46 G A Hick. . . . . . .369.5 103 877 19 46.15 0 0 4-126 S J Rhodes. . . . . . . .- - - - - - - - A J Stewart. . . . . . 3.2 0 13 0 0.0 0 0 0 G P Thorpe. . . . . . .8 2 15 0 0 0 0 0 P C R Tufnell. . . . 800.2 211 2117 54 39.20 4 1 7-47 C White. . . . . . . .78.1 17 258 8 32.25 0 0 3-18 J E Benjamin has not played Test cricket* denotes not out -----------------------------------------------------------------

Comments