Cricket: Hamilton stakes all-round claim

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The Independent Online
GAVIN HAMILTON stands on the verge of claiming a place in England's line-up for the opening Test against South Africa next Thursday just three years after he considered moving from Headingley in order to play more regular senior cricket.

The Yorkshire all-rounder has recovered from a disappointing start to his first senior England tour to stake a serious claim for the No 8 spot at the Wanderers.

It is a staggering transformation in his fortunes, considering he had pondered life away from the county after failing to claim a regular spot. But when the Craig White suffered an injury, Hamilton was allowed to bat up the order and was given an opportunity for an extended run in the side.

"I was batting at No 9 and bowling first change and I got the opportunity of batting at No 7, which is totally different," Hamilton said. "That's where it probably all kick-started for me. I had thought about leaving, but I didn't really want to leave Headingley, because the pitches suit my bowling style. Now I'm glad I stayed."

Hamilton's new-found confidence helped him to 217 runs in last summer's World Cup for Scotland, more than any English batsman managed, he was top of Yorkshire's Championship averages last season and was their second highest wicket-taker behind Chris Silverwood with 43 victims. It was those statistics that persuaded the selectors to have a look at his obvious potential on this tour, and he has now emerged as a leading contender for the Test.

In his first two full matches, he failed to take a wicket in 33 overs, but after working hard with the bowling coach, Bob Cottam, he claimed 2 for 29 to help England claim an emphatic 153-run victory over a Combined Free State/Griqualand West XI in Bloemfontein, having also hit an unbeaten 64.

Hamilton's return to form could not have been more timely, particularly with Andrew Flintoff - his main rival at the start of the tour for the all-rounder's role - unable to bowl because of a back injury. But with the Wanderers not expected to take spin, Hamilton is now the favourite to take Phil Tufnell's position with Flintoff expected to play just as a batsman. "I'd by lying if I said I didn't think about playing in the Test, but I don't want to get my hopes up by thinking about it too much," he said. "It's something that I want to do, that's what we're all here for, and it's exciting times at present."