Cricket: Emburey praises Croft

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The Independent Online
Robert Croft was told he could have a 10-year Test career after starring once again for England yesterday. The 26-year old Glamorgan off-spinner has been the biggest success story of this winter's campaign in Zimbabwe and New Zealand and has proved he can be the long-term successor to John Emburey.

After watching Croft's 3 for 49 from 24 overs to keep England in contention on the first day of the final Test in Christchurch, Emburey led the appreciation for the Welshman's growing stature.

Emburey, England's assistant coach, played the last of his 64 Tests in 1995 after a 19-year international career. "The ball didn't seam as much as we thought and there wasn't much swing either,'' he said. "But Crofty has bowled better on this tour than I've ever seen him. He's definitely matured and he could be an England spinner for another 10 or 12 years. Most spinners have their best years later in their careers.

"He's got a good loop and he's a bigger spinner of the ball than I was. He also has a good change of pace and flights it well.

"And, when he's needed to push the ball through a bit quicker such as during the Wellington Test he has not lost his spin or the late dip which that imparts on the ball.''

Croft's tactics against Stephen Fleming, New Zealand's top player, have illustrated just how dependable and effective a bowler he has become after just four Test appearances.

Operating from over the wicket against him, Croft spun the ball just enough and cramped Fleming's style and eventually grabbed the key wicket of the day for England by having him stumped by Alec Stewart.

Fleming said: "I perhaps came down the pitch a little too early and he held it back a bit. I knew I was out, but at the time I felt we needed to be more aggressive and try to get our total up to around 250. We have to be positive out there because we have to win the game to square the series."

Dominic Cork, however, is still struggling for form despite making an early breakthrough with the new ball.

Emburey said: "He's lacking rhythm at the moment, but that can come back as quickly as it goes. He is well aware of the areas he needs to improve on, and there are also a couple of little technical things which are on his mind.

"I felt he tried to bowl a bit too quick today, and as a consequence he lost a touch of control. We are all working with him and talking with him, but at the end of the day it is the player himself who has to go out there and perform on the park."

England's management, though admitting they misread the pitch conditions, pronounced themselves happy with New Zealand's first-day total.

Emburey added: "The pitch was very green, and still a bit damp this morning. We have done well bowling first in other games in New Zealand, and we thought we could get among them early on especially after winning so well in the second Test in Wellington. It didn't quite happen, but we stuck at it pretty well."