Cricket: From Atherton to Udal: Derek Pringle's guide to the 16 men who will do battle for England

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Craig White

BORN in Yorkshire but raised in rural Victoria, White pipped both Dominic Cork and Chris Lewis to the all-rounder's spot. Like those players, he appears to be fulfilling the role on promise rather than deed and it must be worrying that he suffered from shin splints after only his first full season as a seam bowler. He desperately needs to make his mark against stronger opposition. Nevertheless, if he can combine the tough Australian with the gritty Yorkshireman, while eliminating his airy back-foot waft, he could yet become a formidable competitor. Likes going bush or reading books on the beach, something he might be doing rather a lot of should the soreness to his shins return.

John Crawley

LIKE his captain, Crawley is a product of Manchester Grammar School and Cambridge University, where he read history. Although it is early in his Test career, this tour represents a crossroad of sorts, along the route, he hopes, to a regular batting place. Ideally, the Lancashire batsman will want to start the tour with some big runs, for there is a lot of competition for places in the middle order. If he does find himself carrying the drinks for long periods, it will give him the perfect opportunity to iron out some of the flaws in his footwork, for no trigger-happy umpire will doze while he bats. Crawley is just the kind of intelligent and personable chap that will get roped in to run the fines kitty.

Mike Gatting

IS ONE of the few people still playing who can remember what it is like to win an Ashes series in Australia, something England managed under his captaincy in 1986-87. Owes his place to the chairman of selectors, Ray Illingworth, who sees his dogmatic personality at the crease as an asset in the rough skirmishes to come. Has always been a good player of spin, which he attacks with glee at county level. However, the spectre of Warne's wonder ball at Old Trafford may still haunt him, though it will be a toss-up between that and the meat pies waiting in the dressing-rooms as to which will be foremost in his mind. Loves sport and food of all kinds, a relationship that keeps him from letting himself go.

Graham Gooch

AS THE man settles into middle age, it looks like the batsman must settle for middle order - though Gooch himself still believes he has most to offer as an opener. It will be his testimonial next year, so Gooch will be on the lookout for material for his after-dinner speeches; any hair-brained japes, like buzzing the ground in a Tiger Moth, will be welcome. Would so dearly love to put one over on the Aussies; he will be doubly determined to show people he is not the old codger he jokes about. Apart from reacquainting himself with the odd bottle of Henschke's 'Hill of Grace' Shiraz, most of his rest days will be spent doing extra fielding practice to make the position at fine leg his very own.

Graham Thorpe

THIS nuggety left-hander will still be smarting from having been overlooked by the selectors for most of last summer. When he did eventually make the team he batted superbly, taking heavy toll of some wayward South African bowling as they struggled to alter their line. However, he could find that the extra pressure being heaped on him, as the only left- hander present to counter Shane Warne's leg spin, is an unwanted burden. A fine fielder in any position, he can also turn his arm over and his medium-paced swingers may get an outing in the one-day matches. He will not be averse to a spot of chilling out on the beach, particularly now that Chris Lewis, his closest rival in the cool stakes, is not on the trip.

Graeme Hick

PERVERSELY, it was while Hick spent a winter playing for Queensland in 1990, as he waited to qualify for England, that the alarm bells over his presumed indomitability with the bat began to sound. One only has to watch the body language between him and Merv Hughes to know that the Aussies still don't rate him. However, if he can take his recent form with him he can shove their opinions back down their throats, a move that would prove popular even among his detractors. To do so, he must continue to strike the ball aggressively, particularly against Shane Warne, who must be attacked. Away from the cricket he will be found reading a Wilbur Smith book, or sunning himself by the pool.

Alec Stewart

A GIFTED strokeplayer who will be glad to resume his opening role in which the hardness of the new ball and the close-set fields suit his fluent and forceful strokeplay. With his blond surfie looks he will be at home in Australian conditions, a country he has toured before. Having already played several years' worth of grade cricket in Perth, he enjoys the hidden charms of the Australian psyche and its 'beers and barbie' lifestyle. Enjoys the sun and will relish the chance to show off his extensive range of sunglasses. A bright, chirpy vice-captain, with a dry sense of humour, he is, as always, ready to take up the wicketkeeping gauntlets should Steve Rhodes become indisposed.

Michael Atherton

APART from beating New Zealand and drawing the Test series with South Africa - usually cause enough for delirious English celebration - Atherton would definitely rate last summer as one to be forgotten. Unfortunately for him, the massed ranks of pom-baiters waiting for him in Australia will simply not allow this to happen, and his skin will need to be fortified with more than just a few dollops of factor 15 sunblock, if he is to avoid being roasted before Christmas. But if he can keep his pockets empty and his lips sealed, and get enough runs on the board, there is no reason why the England captain should not forge a combative team capable of winning back the Ashes.

Shaun Udal

PREFERRED to Peter Such for his better all-round skills with the bat and for his sharper fielding. The Hampshire player is likely to feature more in the one-day internationals than the Test matches, where Hick will do the job if required. Udal is a quiet, intelligent cricketer who can learn a great deal from watching and talking to the likes of his Australian counterpart Tim May, an aggressive off-spinner who actually tries to spin the ball. Udal's pallid colouring will mean that here is one player who will not constantly be beating a path with towel and sunglasses to the nearest beach. Renowned as a bit of a dressing-room entertainer with a neat line in lavatorial humour, but should at least keep Phil Tufnell amused.

Phil Tufnell

ON HIS last full tour to Australia, Tufnell became a cult figure more famous for his abominable fielding displays than his flighty left-arm spin. With his recent personal problems now behind him, he has a key role to play. His job - apart from on the turner at Sydney - will be to resort to the stock bowling job he did so well in Barbados last April. It will be fascinating to watch the Aussies, especially Mark Waugh, trying to get after him early on, just to test his spirit, something that has not always held up well under pressure in the past. Should there be any serious lapses in behaviour, he will need more than his choirboy haircut to get him out of trouble with the chairman of selectors. He is probably on his last chance.

Darren Gough

ANOTHER of Ray Illingworth's little Yorkies who must use the abrasive atmosphere to inspire rather than expire his youthful zest. Gough the bowler is still learning to strike the right balance between experimentation and patience; while some of his excesses must be reined in, they must not be outlawed altogether. An exciting prospect with the bat, his extravagant follow-through and puffed-out chest recalling the intent of an early Ian Botham, if not always the execution. He will find it hard to stick to his wife's carefully planned diet if he makes a habit of eating out with Mike Gatting. Australia will be his toughest hurdle, but then, as Illy will tell you, he weren't bloody well raised as a milksop.

Martin McCague

THE FACT that he probably knows more verses of 'Waltzing Matilda' than 'God Save The Queen' will not prevent him giving his all for the flag of St George. In any case, all Aussies are programmed to be competitive and most of them would not think twice about taking money off their grandmothers at cards. Made his England debut against Australia at Trent Bridge, but persistent injuries have limited his appearances since. He has a big bulky frame which seems unable to withstand harsh treatment. He must be used sparingly if he is to bowl fast and stay injury free. Should he make the Test team, there will be heavy demand for tickets from Aussie relatives despite divided loyalties.

Joey Benjamin

ENGLAND will be looking for Benjamin to bowl long probing spells and to strike if and when the ball starts to swing. It is a myth that Australian pitches are fast and bouncy, and Benjamin will find that, aside from Perth, the ball does not carry as it does on the pitches at The Oval. He may be a latecomer to the game but he has all the energy and enthusiasm of a stripling and is getting better all the time.

The Surrey paceman is the cheerful sort; he will bear his fate - be it long, hot stints in the field or endless dressing-room chores - with an equanimity rare among bowlers. He is bound to go to the players' Christmas fancy-dress party in drag. People with well-tended moustaches always do.

Devon Malcolm

IF Malcolm can find his Oval form just two or three times this winter, England will win the Ashes. Apart from his blitz against South Africa, he scuppered the Aussies there the year before, Mark Taylor, the new Australian captain, describing the experience as some of the fastest bowling he has ever faced. Perhaps Atherton should consider approaching British Gas and get them to erect weathered green gasometers outside all the Australian Test grounds. Certainly there is something about Surrey's HQ that seems to get Malcolm's juices flowing. His role will be simply to bowl fast and straight which is not as easy as it sounds when you can barely see 22 yards.

Phillip DeFreitas

FOLLOWING his umpteenth resurrection as an England player, DeFreitas now finds himself as the linchpin of the bowling. This means he will need a flexible but disciplined strategy, something to which he has not always been best suited. If the ball moves around he will need to attack, but without Angus Fraser in the side, the Derbyshire man will have to bowl more than his fair share of defensive spells as well. As a batsman, he will be called upon to contribute useful runs down the order as he did against South Africa at The Oval. Such efforts may well prove crucial once the Aussie spinners start hitting the right spot. This long and arduous tour could test his toy scattering abilities to the full.

Steve Rhodes

MAINSTAY of Raymond Illingworth's 'little Yorkie' elite and just the kind of annoying competitor to get right up big Merv's moustache. He has a heart as stout as an oak barrel and a manner twice as blunt. He is not a flashy wicketkeeper, merely a proficient one, with an important part to play with the bat. It will be crucial to England's chances if Rhodes can manage to fulfil the kind of function Ian Healy has done for the Australians, batting at number seven. His hobbies include golf and tropical fish, so spare days should see him either donning flippers or plus fours, though he should bear in mind that the only harmless species of shark to be found in Australia are those with an 18 handicap.

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