Just five days after scoring his sixth Test century, Hick, widely tipped to secure a place on the forthcoming Ashes tour of Australia, has been left out of a 17-man squad. Instead, in a party that contained few surprises, other than the selection of the 34-year-old Essex off-spinner Peter Such, the berth falls to John Crawley, England's other centurion in the defeat by Sri Lanka.
Included in England's one-day squad for the Wills Trophy in Bangladesh, Hick will none the less be a disappointed man. Not many people have been dropped immediately after scoring a Test century - Geoff Boycott is one that springs to mind - and Hick's misfortune was to have Crawley, given an unexpected chance following Nasser Hussain's injury, score one as well. "The choice between Crawley and Hick was without doubt, one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make as a selector," said David Graveney, who broke the news to Hick yesterday morning. "But doors open in strange ways and, in the end, together with the captain and the other selectors, we went with the player we thought would be more effective in Australia."
It is a curious reason and considering three of Australia's best bowlers, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie, are currently all coming back from injury, it would take a soothsayer of Nostradamus-like proportions to predict just exactly who England will be up against.
However, what is thought to have swayed it for Crawley, a man unlikely to start the Test series, is his ability to play spin, wrist or otherwise. No such dilemma will exist for Australia's batsmen, though, and England's slow bowling department, filled by Such and Robert Croft, is solely of the off-spinning variety. Unless pitches dictate otherwise, England's use of spin is likely to be a defensive one, though the rough created by Alan Mullally's follow through, from left-arm over, may allow them to attack later in the game.
Going to Australia top heavy with off-spin has been tried before, most notably on the 1982-83 tour. Then three off-spinners, Geoff Miller, Eddie Hemmings and Vic Marks, were taken, while Phil Edmonds, the Tufnell of his day, was left behind. A brilliant bowler, the decision to exclude Edmonds from that tour was not made on purely cricketing grounds. Asked yesterday if Tufnell had been similarly treated, Graveney denied the claim. "We decided to pick, in our opinion, the two best slow bowlers, in the country," he said. Such, for whom the 1998 domestic season for Essex is proving something of a nadir - he has 31 first-class wickets as compared to hauls of 56, 82 and 77 in his three previous years - last played for England in July 1994, 48 Test matches ago.
Long regarded as the best of his type in the country - a fact Graveney conceded when he said that if conditions were favourable he tended to bowl sides out - Such lost favour under Raymond Illingworth, who felt he was not mentally tough enough for Test cricket. If Illy's suspicions are right, and Australia will either confirm or disprove them, they are not shared by the current selectors.
As expected, England are taking a second wicketkeeper as well as a young fast bowler, Alex Tudor. But if Warren Hegg will keep wicket in most of the warm-up games - Stewart will not keep except in the Tests - Tudor is along primarily to look, listen and learn.
Following the confusion last winter over who picks the side, the team will be selected by a three-man panel - the captain, the coach, David Lloyd, and the tour manager, Graham Gooch. The move should avoid situations such as the one in Jamaica when Crawley - against the wishes of the selectors, who were elsewhere - played in front of Mark Ramprakash.
England's one-day squad for the Carlton and United series that follows the Tests will be named following the conclusion of the one-day tournament in Bangladesh and the World Super Max Eights in Perth, where England are being led by Surrey's Adam Hollioake and Gloucestershire's Mark Alleyne respectively. Alleyne's squad includes Yorkshire's Gavin Hamilton, whose eligibility to represent Scotland in next year's World Cup will now be annulled.
Michael Vaughan, an England Under-19 captain, will skipper the A side whose tour of Zimbabwe and South Africa leaves in January. Fourteen of the 15 A squad players have come through the Under-19 side, the odd one out being Jason Lewry, who came to cricket late.
The most pleasing aspect is the amount of quality pace bowlers. With Angus Fraser the wrong side of 32, much will be expected from the likes of Melvyn Betts, Darren Thomas, Steve Harmison and Paul Hutchison. With the A team now proving more effective than county cricket as a way to the top, their push for recognition starts the moment they get off the plane in Harare.
ENGLAND'S ASHES SQUAD
A J STEWART (Surrey, capt) Age 35 Tests 85
M A ATHERTON (Lancashire)
N HUSSAIN (Essex) 30, 34
G P THORPE (Surrey) 29, 52
D GOUGH (Yorkshire) 27, 26
D G CORK (Derbyshire) 27, 25
W K HEGG (Lancashire) 30, 0
M A BUTCHER (Surrey) 26, 14
J P CRAWLEY (Lancashire) 26, 26
D W HEADLEY (Kent) 28, 10
M R RAMPRAKASH (Middlesex) 28, 29
A R C FRASER (Middlesex)
R D B CROFT (Glamorgan) 28, 14
B C HOLLIOAKE (Surrey) 20, 2
A D MULLALLY (Leicestershire)
A J TUDOR (Surrey) 20, 0
P M SUCH (Essex) 34, 8
Tour manager: G A Gooch.
Coach: D Lloyd.
Overs M Runs Wkt 5w 10w Best Ave
A R C Fraser 1743.4 431 4607 173 13 2 8-53 26.63
D Gough 914.3 176 2891 104 4 0 6-42 27.79
D W Headley 324.5 50 1059 37 0 0 4-72 28.62
D G Cork 936.5 182 2953 94 5 0 7-43 31.41
A D Mullally 396.3 114 927 28 0 0 3-44 33.10
P M Such 362.5 100 805 22 1 0 6-67 36.59
R D B Croft 536.5 142 1254 34 1 0 5-95 36.88
B C Hollioake 42.0 4 199 4 0 0 2-105 49.75
M R Ramprakash 95.1 13 308 3 0 0 1-2 102.66
M A Atherton 68.0 12 302 2 0 0 1-20 151.00
M A Butcher 32.0 8 83 0 0 0 0-0 0.00
A J Stewart 3.2 0 13 0 0 0 0-0 0.00
G P Thorpe 23.0 7 37 0 0 0 0-0 0.00
M I No Runs HS 100 50 Ave
A J Stewart 81 146 10 5652 190 11 28 41.55
G P Thorpe 52 95 11 3366 138 6 23 40.07
M A Atherton 84 155 6 5935 185n 12 37 39.83
N Hussain 34 61 5 2033 207 7 6 36.30
J P Crawley 26 41 5 1243 156n 3 7 34.52
M A Butcher 14 27 1 742 116 1 4 28.53
M R Ramprakash 29 51 3 1195 154 1 5 24.89
D G Cork 25 38 5 595 59 0 2 18.03
R D B Croft 14 22 5 268 37n 0 0 15.76
D Gough 26 38 5 425 65 0 2 12.87
B C Hollioake 2 4 0 44 28 0 0 11.00
A D Mullally 9 12 4 79 24 0 0 9.87
P M Such 8 11 4 65 14n 0 0 9.28
D W Headley 10 17 4 111 31 0 0 8.53
A R C Fraser 44 64 13 380 32 0 0 7.45
ASHES TOUR ITINERARY
OCTOBER: 23: England team arrives in Perth. 24-28: Practice/acclimatisation. 29: v ACB Chairman's XI (Lilac Hill). 31-3 Nov: v Western Australia (Perth).
NOVEMBER: 7-10: v South Australia (Adelaide). 13-16: v Queensland (Cairns). 20-24: First Test (Brisbane). 28-2 Dec: Second Test (Perth).
DECEMBER: 5-8: v Victoria (Melbourne). 11-15: Third Test (Adelaide). 17: v Prime Minister's XI (Canberra). 19-22: v Australia XI (Hobart). 26-30: Fourth Test (Melbourne).
JANUARY 1999: 2-6: Fifth Test (Sydney). 7: England party departs for UK (minus players selected for one-day competition).
(Wills International Cup, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 24 Oct to 1 Nov)
A J Hollioake Surrey, capt
I D Austin Lancs
A D Brown Surrey
D R Brown Warwicks
M A Ealham Kent
N H Fairbrother Lancs
M V Fleming Kent
A F Giles Warwicks
G A Hick Worcs
N V Knight Warwicks
G D Lloyd Lancs
P J Martin Lancs
R C Russell Gloucs
C E W Silverwood Yorks
Manager: D Graveney. Coach: D Lloyd
(Tour to Zimbabwe and South Africa)
M P Vaughan Yorks, capt
D L Maddy Leics, vice-capt
M M Betts Durham
D A Cosker Glam
A Flintoff Lancs
S J Harmison Durham
P M Hutchison Yorks
R W T Key Kent
J D Lewry Sussex
M B Loye Northants
C M W Read Notts
V S Solanki Worcs
G P Swann Northants
S D Thomas Glam
M G N Windows Gloucs
Manager: P Neale. Coach: J E Emburey
(World Super Max 8s 1998, Perth, WA, 14 to 16 Oct)
M W Alleyne Gloucs, capt
C J Adams Sussex
A Flintoff Lancs
P J Franks Notts
G M Hamilton Yorks
R C Irani Essex
P A Nixon Leics
N M K Smith Warwicks
V J Wells Leics
Tour manager/coach: M W GattingReuse content