Cricket Diary: The new craze: skittling the selectors

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The season, Graeme Welch and Mark Robinson have discovered a companionship which extends beyond their northern roots and their right-arm seam bowling. They are both members of the growing band of men who have dismissed at least one part of the England selection panel.

Welch accounted for Mike Gatting last month at Edgbaston and on Thursday at Hove in the afternoon sunshine Robinson ensnared Gooch. This is either a way of getting into the England team or a surer one of getting nowhere near it.

While neither Welch of Warwickshire nor Robinson of Sussex is pencilling his name into the squad for the Ashes they left the G men in no doubt that their wickets are much sought after and greatly prized.

"You always put in that little bit extra when you're up against Test players or ex-Test players," said Welch. "When they've been around as long as those two and are selectors as well every bowler runs in. When I got Gatt I thought I'd bowled pretty well and then produced a length ball which swung, nipped away and he nicked it. It was nice to get him."

Robinson, 30, has accounted for Gooch before though not in his selectorial capacity. At Chelmsford in 1990, he got him twice in the match, once with an Alderman-type in-inswinger which had the great man caught at short leg. On another occasion there was a hook caught at long leg.

But Thursday's catch at the wicket by Peter Moores was particularly special not only because it was an inside edge and Moores was standing up but because Robinson thought his days in the first-class game were over. He had planned to retire when released by Yorkshire last summer but could not resist the unexpected approach from a depleted Sussex in February.

"I'm glad they did now," he said. "We've been a bit inconsistent but I'm enjoying bowling and believe me when you get a selector out who's made the runs he has it makes the game worth playing."

Gatting and Gooch are responding to their pursuit by all county bowlers in different ways. While Gooch was unaffected last summer - his first as a selector - he has found himself successfully hunted down this season, passing fifty only twice in Championship cricket. Gatting, after a shaky start, has since been repelling the invaders who would have his scalp.

So far, nobody has claimed the wicket of both men (a Test place to the man who does it first?) and only one bowler has got one of the selectors out twice in a match.

Here then are the bowlers who have sent the G men packing so far in 1997. It is not a wholly menacing list.

Gooch: Cardigan Connor, John Stephenson, Neil Killeen, Michael Foster, Mike Smith, Craig White, Chris Silverwood, Alex Tudor, Ian Salisbury, Robinson. Gatting: Amer Khan, Devon Malcolm (twice in the match, which brought its own reward), Allan Donald, Welch, Paul Taylor, Adrian Pierson and Darren Thomas.

Sixteen players, seven of them with Test caps, six of them for England. We must wait to see if the others such as Welch, Robinson, Killeen and Khan have impressed sufficiently to join them.

AS you will be aware the buzz word in the England team is continuity. The present incumbents will be pleased to hear it, not least because the men in charge sound as though they mean it.

Still, they should also be aware of recent history. In 1995 England beat the West Indies at Lord's, their first victory of the summer. It was pulsating stuff. By the time they beat India in the first Test of 1996 only four players (Atherton, Thorpe, Hick and Cork) survived. A year on from that in the nine-wicket wicket over Australia and only three names are the same (Atherton, Thorpe and Hussain) though Stewart and Gough are back from 1995. Continuity may still prove easier in theory than pratice.

NOBODY could fault Darren Gough in the First Test. His was a committed, serious performance showing he meant business. Still, it is hard to shake off the feeling that this younger generation (the Dazzler is 26) are not aware of what beating the Aussies and getting back that urn really mean. The fast bowler was asked recently by a magazine: "Which would you choose between winning the World Cup or regaining the Ashes?" and opted for the World Cup.

Book mark: "Third, free access to Test match tickets. A minimum (say 25 per cent) must be on sale at the gate. This means that some poor people will be allowed in." One of the prescriptions for an improved game suggested by Nothing Sacred: The New Cricket Culture, a series of essays examining the future of the game published late last year, and especially pertinent in the week of the Lord's Test, where there may be the odd poor person (even at pounds 20 a ticket) but little of the feverish atmosphere of Edgbaston.

nursery end

AT the start of this season Vikram Solanki was on most lists of players to watch. His peers respected him and said as much. Since when the 21-year-old off-spinning Worcestershire all-rounder has a top Championship score of 28 and is wicketless. Against Oxford University he compiled an unbeaten century and this week there seemed further cause for optimism. He began the county's second XI match at Cheam and scored 112 against Surrey. Thus restored to form, he was pulled out of the match and despatched to the Championship fixture at Bristol. Where he immediately made a duck. We anticipate his reappearance here soon for happier reasons.