Cricket: England keep faith with those who failed: Illingworth tells Thorpe and Crawley to 'keep on scoring' after being omitted for third Test against Kiwis

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The Independent Online
IT USED to be that players retained their places through good performances; in the looking-glass world of English cricket they now do so through bad ones.

Despite avoiding defeat in the second Test against New Zealand only by virtue of late batting resistance and fading light, England have left their even faster fading middleorder untouched for the third Test which opens at Old Trafford on Thursday.

Indeed, the only players dropped from the 13 on duty at Lord's are Paul Taylor, who had been brought in as a stop-gap, Devon Malcolm and Richard Stemp, neither of whom bowled a ball. Darren Gough, who is poised to make his Test debut, and Ian Salisbury are their replacements.

Thus Robin Smith, one century in 12 Tests, and Graeme Hick, none in 10, keep their places, with Ray Illingworth, the chairman of selectors, admitting England might have made changes if they had won the last Test but, since they did not, had decided to 'keep faith with the people we picked for this series'.

Good job they played poorly then, otherwise they could both be pounds 2,400 and a Test cap worse off.

Interesting concept loyalty. Not much seems to have been shown to Graham Thorpe, who, having batted creditably against Australia and the West Indies (where he rewarded Keith Fletcher's faith in him after a poor start), was dropped for the considerably less daunting Kiwis and remains ignored despite an impressive season to date.

John Crawley, the country's outstanding young talent, also waits, presumably until England are up against it against South Africa - not exactly the ideal time to blood a new player.

'There was a big temptation to play Thorpe or Crawley,' Illingworth said yesterday, 'they were extremely close. They will just have to keep on scoring runs for their counties.' Smith's position had attracted a great deal of debate. 'The general feeling is that he can obviously play and we will need him against South Africa,' Illingworth said. 'To have left him out now would have been silly.'

Apart from dismissing the New Zealanders as an inconsequential warm-up for the main event - an assumption shown to be foolhardy by England's performance at Lord's - there is no obvious reason why Smith should be a key player against the South Africans.

Sure, he wants to play against his countrymen but given Smith's lack of confidence and paralysing fear of failure the special nature of the opposition may even make things worse.

Admittedly Smith's weakness against spin is unlikely to be a problem against South Africa, whose attack is dominated by pace and seam. However, after having his confidence shattered by 13 successive dismissals against the spinners of Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Australia 11 of Smith's last 12 innings have been ended by seam bowlers with the other a run-out.

'I am all in favour of continuity,' Mike Atherton said. 'It is important he (Smith) and Graeme (Hick) make runs to pencil in their places.'

More positive consequences of Saturday's three- hour selection meeting in Manchester are the recalls of Salisbury and Gough. Both Gough and his county have been consulted on his fitness after a month out with a side injury and Malcolm remains on stand-by. 'It was a unanimous decision to pick Gough,' Illingworth said.

Salisbury owes his place to improved form, fitness and the likelihood that Old Trafford will have bounce and pace which, said Atherton, meant England were unlikely to play two spinners - a factor that heped Craig White retain his place although Mike Watkinson was strongly considered.

While Peter Such would definitely play ahead of Stemp, that is not the case, on such a pitch, with Salisbury. Stemp, meanwhile, has been saved the probability of travelling to Manchester between Tuesday's disciplinary hearing in London and Yorkshire's match at Maidstone on Thursday. 'We were being kind to the player,' Illingworth said.

It would appear he was not the only such recipient.

----------------------------------------------------------------- ENGLAND'S TEST AVERAGES ----------------------------------------------------------------- BATTING M I NO R HS 100 50 Ca St Ave M A Atherton 36 67 1 2599 151 6 17 28 0 39.37 P A J DeFreitas 35 53 5 627 55* 0 2 9 0 13.06 A R C Fraser 18 25 4 160 29 0 0 5 0 7.61 G A Gooch 109 198 6 8516 333 20 45 99 0 44.35 G A Hick 25 43 0 1401 178 1 8 36 0 32.58 S J Rhodes 2 3 2 105 49 0 0 7 0 105.00 I D K Salisbury 6 11 0 199 50 0 1 3 0 18.09 R A Smith 52 96 14 3664 175 9 24 34 0 44.68 A J Stewart 39 72 4 2732 190 7 13 50 4 40.17 P M Such 7 10 3 60 14* 0 0 2 0 8.57 C White 2 3 0 79 51 0 1 3 0 26.33 BOWLING O M R W 5w 10w BB Ave M A Atherton 61 11 282 1 0 1 60 282.00 P A J DeFreitas 1268.1 293 3548 110 4 7 70 32.25 A R C Fraser 827.2 196 2074 77 6 8 75 26.93 G A Gooch 412.3 116 973 22 0 3 39 44.22 G A Hick 335.5 84 817 17 0 4 126 48.05 I D K Salisbury 190.1 18 812 15 0 4 163 54.13 R A Smith 4 2 6 0 0 0 0 - A J Stewart 3.2 0 13 0 0 0 0 - P M Such 347.5 96 758 22 1 6 67 34.45 C White 41.1 11 143 2 0 1 38 71.50 -----------------------------------------------------------------

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