Cricket: Gooch declares his Test desire

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The Independent Online
AFTER more curtain-raising than the Old Vic, the County Championship gets under way today with England's 'Old Man' already attempting to persuade the new casting director to recall him to the Test stage. Graham Gooch, entering his 21st county season at 40, yesterday indicated he might agree to the demand from Ray Illingworth that he tour Australia next winter.

'I'm still waiting for Illy to call me but in my book if you get asked to play for England you will bat anywhere or do anything,' he said.

That was not the case last winter when he refused to tour the West Indies but Gooch insisted: 'I don't regard myself as retired. I see I have been dropped from the world rankings but I have only missed one series. My job in the next few weeks is to prove I am still worth an England place.'

Gooch will today face one of the pace bowlers who defeated England in the Caribbean, not that it will prove anything. Winston Benjamin, Hampshire's new overseas player, took only 12 wickets at 41.50 when supported by Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Kenny Benjamin. Today he will be partnered by Norman Cowans if the former Middlesex bowler overcomes a back strain.

Essex include their new recruit, Michael Kasprowicz, who is likely to face Gooch if he goes to Australia next winter. At present, the Queenslander is not in his national side but Australia have decided to field two teams in the winter's one-day series, Australia and Australia A. Officially, the move is to cater for 'the outstanding depth of talent in Australian cricket'. Unofficially, perhaps, England and the other tourists, Zimbabwe, are not regarded as adequate preparation for the following winter's World Cup.

England now have two fewer internationals with an extra three-day game. While not seeking the change, the Test and County Cricket Board said it was pleased with the reduction.

England's own A team captain, Hugh Morris, returns from his knee operation to lead a Glamorgan side who are very much second billing at Edgbaston. Warwickshire include two debutants, the slow, left- arm bowler, Richard Davis, and a fast left-arm batsman, Brian Lara. His presence means a huge media contingent will pray Morris does not win the toss and bat all day.

Other interesting debutants are John Morris, for Durham against Derbyshire, and the Scots-born Australian pace bowler, James Brinkley, for Worcestershire at The Oval. Surrey remain without their new signing, Cameron Cuffy, who appears to share not only Ambrose's height and action but his sudden aversion to flying as well. Both are due by the weekend, Ambrose on Friday to a fine of more than pounds 1,000. However, Northamptonshire's chief executive, Steve Coverdale, said: 'It is important that our supporters get behind him when he arrives rather than criticise. I can assure everyone he is committed to the club.'

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