Cricket: England backing wrong one-day horses: Doubts arise over fresh blood policy but Caddick proves Ashes pedigree

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IT'S A tough old life being a selector. Having made the first tentative steps towards fresh blood (though by leaving Mark Lathwell and Dominic Cork out of the Old Trafford team, it was more of a smear than a transfusion) England go into today's second Texaco Trophy match at Edgbaston wondering whether their anti-designer stubble policy - pick them before they are old enough to shave - is quite such a good idea after all.

Losing by four runs is hardly a recipe for reverting to the customary policy of raiding the geriatric wards, but it is hard to believe that England would have failed to make the 88 runs with an old lag like Allan Lamb in the middle order.

Graham Thorpe is a good one-day player, and is a fair bit handier in the field than the likes of a Lamb, a Botham, or a Gower, but once Neil Fairbrother and Graeme Hick had got themselves out on Wednesday, there was no one with the necessary big-match experience to steer England to what was a modest target.

There is also the suspicion that the selectors are at their best at picking one-day teams when the objective is to win a Test match, and at their best at picking Test teams when the aim is to win a one-day match. So here we are with bowlers best equipped to operate with three slips and a gully.

Andrew Caddick did nothing to disprove the theory that he is far better suited to Test cricket, and if the selectors did not know that already of Paul Jarvis, then they should have done. Quite why Jarvis did not take the new ball, while also preserving the nagging line and length of Derek Pringle for the middle overs, is not easily explained.

A few years ago in Sharjah, Micky Stewart spent a day in the nets attempting to persuade David Capel that aiming at the stumps in an effort to get someone out was an act of near lunacy. Bore the bugger to death, and wait for him to slog one up in the air was the gist of it.

In the spin department England rarely waver from the policy that defence is the best form of attack, and if you were to compile a list of 1,001 things to enjoy at an afternoon's cricket, watching Richard Illingworth bowling in a one-day game would not be on it. For England to pick an attacking spinner would be the evolutionary equivalent of fish sprouting feet.

Six hours of slog and throttle cricket is hardly conclusive evidence, but the one pointer to the Ashes is that both sides are better off for batsmen than bowlers. Australia have the one class act in Craig McDermott - although Keith Fletcher described him yesterday as good 'but not that good'.

Fletcher, the England coach, will none the less have been heartened by Caddick's performance. He was talking yesterday about another possible spearhead for the Ashes in Kent's Australian-reared Irishman Martin McCague. England's route back in this event, though, is via the dripping tap - Pringle and Illingworth - rather than the water cannon.

ENGLAND (from): G A Gooch (capt), A J Stewart, R A Smith, G A Hick, N H Fairbrother, G P Thorpe, C C Lewis, D R Pringle, A R Caddick, D G Cork, P W Jarvis, R K Illingworth, M N Lathwell, M R Ramprakash.

AUSTRALIA (from): M A Taylor, M L Hayden, M B Waugh, D C Boon, A R Border (capt), S R Waugh, I A Healy, M G Hughes, C J McDermott, P R Reiffel, T B A May, B P Julian, D R Martyn.

County scoreboard, page 37