Cricket / Fifth Test: England co-opt Welsh for Test campaign: Maynard, Watkin and Malcolm are recalled to the colours as Dexter pledges to equip Atherton to wage 'war' in fifth Test

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WHETHER or not it suddenly dawned on England's selectors that there was still one foreign country they had not yet raided this summer, they have now cast their net across the Severn Bridge, and probably in the nick of time. They were getting so brassed off down in the valleys that one more snub might have prompted Wales to fire off an application to the ICC for independent Test-playing membership.

However, the first selection meeting under Michael Atherton's captaincy has resulted in two Glamorgan players - Matthew Maynard and Steve Watkin - being invited to help arrest England's remorseless graph towards the earth's core, and Derbyshire's Devon Malcolm is the one other change to the 12 for the fifth Test match starting at Edgbaston on Thursday.

The three players omitted to accommodate them are Martin McCague, of Kent, who is not fit, and the Somerset pair, Mark Lathwell and Andrew Caddick, who have been rejected - temporarily at any rate - on the grounds of form. Despite Edgbaston's reputation for helping the spinners this summer, the selectors have not been tempted back to Graeme Hick on the flimsy notion that he counts as an all-rounder, and with the West Indies coming up, Hick may not be seen again for some time.

Apart from the customary protest from the Campaign For Real Wicketkeepers (Alec Stewart having again been asked to wear the gloves) there will not be too many dissenting voices over this selection. Malcolm has been in good enough form to have removed McCague from the strike bowler's slot in any event, Watkin is the country's leading wicket-taker, and Maynard arguably has more natural talent than any batsman currently playing county cricket.

Maynard will now tender his resignation from the far from exclusive one-cap wonder club, having been one of nine first-time selections (not to mention four captains) in the summer of 1988. Maynard made 3 and 10 in the final Test against the West Indies at The Oval, and for reasons best known to themselves, the selectors promptly denied him a second cap against Sri Lanka, and the slightly less taxing bowling of Ratnayake and Ramanayake.

It was no great surprise to find Maynard on the list of Mike Gatting's South African tourists the following summer, many of whom have subsequently been re-selected, and Maynard's form this season has been so impressive that it gave rise to a sighting in Swansea last week that could scarcely have startled the locals more had the Loch Ness monster suddenly emerged from Mumbles Bay. An England selector, no less, and despite suspicions that Dennis Amiss must have taken a wrong turning en route to Chelmsford or The Oval, Maynard responded with a typically rousing 84 off 63 balls.

On Sunday, he was in even more imperious form, making 132 (off 115 balls) against the Australians in Neath, and although this innings was perfectly timed to coincide with the selection meeting, word has it that Maynard would have been in even if he had scored 132 runs less. He now averages close to 50 in first-class cricket this summer, and is a far more responsible player than the batsman who came close to making Gower look like a blocker when he first played for England five years ago.

Watkin, who was rested for Glamorgan's weekend match against the tourists, played his two Tests against the West Indies in 1991, when figures of 5 for 153 from 36 overs reflected his overall inconsistency - fluctuating between the unplayable ball and the unmentionable one. However, he is now bowling as well as anyone in the country, according to his county captain, Hugh Morris, who is strongly fancied himself to be chosen for the winter tour to the Caribbean.

Malcolm's own debut came in the middle of the 1989 Australian rout, when Ted Dexter's impressive entry for the world straw-clutching championships after the Trent Bridge Test (England lost by an innings and 180) included the comment: 'Who can forget Malcolm Devon?' It was not quite clear whether he was referring to Malcolm, who took one wicket, or Devon, who conceded 166 runs.

Ted Lord, as he is doubtless known in Derbyshire, yesterday said that Malcolm was 'back to his best form', and that the selectors had been determined to give Atherton the best equipped side with which to go, as he described it, 'to war'. This, by definition, includes Graham Gooch, whose decision to bust himself from general to private offers some indication of just how one- sided this particular war has been.

Gooch and Atherton will resume their opening partnership, and Dexter hinted that it was Lathwell's uncertainty against the Australian spinners that led to his omission.

Lathwell, however, remains a better than even money bet to join the party to the West Indies this winter, possibly as a middle-order batsman.

Stewart's ambitions to move the other way have been dashed by being cast, once again, as the all-rounder, and after the nonsense of batting him at No 4 at Leeds, he will go in no higher than No 6 at Edgbaston. What input Atherton had in this is not certain, but a change of captaincy has not resulted in a recall for David Gower, whose winter packing for the West Indies will now involve the same inventory as it did last time - corkscrew, spare corkscrew, and press-box biro.

(Photograph omitted)

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