Cricket: Ilott doubt for Durban

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The Independent Online

Mark Ilott's chances of playing in the third Test could depend on how quickly he recovers from a mild bout of food poisoning. The Essex left- arm paceman missed yesterday's practice session after complaining of an upset stomach following Monday night's visit to a Japanese restaurant. England expect Ilott to be back on parade today, and competing for a place against South Africa 24 hours later.

With Darren Gough ruled out by a hamstring injury, Ilott, Peter Martin and Richard Illingworth would appear to be contesting one place. "It's going to be a last-minute job again," said the manager, Ray Illingworth, when asked about selection plans. "The pitch is quite damp and green at present but things can change very quickly here if the sun shines."

Mark Ramprakash was also confined to quarters because of a heavy cold but, after three failures in as many Test innings this winter, his place has already been earmarked for John Crawley. Ramprakash is left to heed the advice of the former England captain Mike Gatting as he contemplates his latest failure to translate prolific County Championship form to the international arena.

In Paarl last Sunday, Ramprakash followed three consecutive Test failures with a third-ball duck during the hastily arranged limited-overs match against Boland. However, the 26-year-old batsman remains sanguine. "I've spoken to Gatt on the phone and he has urged me to stay involved, not lock myself away, and be prepared to play at any time," he said.

Gatting, Ramprakash's captain at Middlesex, took a long time himself to break through on the international stage, and he will know better than most the disappointment and sense of despair Ramprakash is experiencing. "I feel I have let so many people down," said Ramprakash, who is being dropped from tomorrow's third Test against South Africa in Durban after starting the five-match series with scores of nine, four and nought.

"The worst thing is that Mike Atherton and Ray Illingworth showed faith in me by giving me the first two Tests and I didn't repay them. I know there could be some long days ahead but it's important to stay chirpy around the guys who are playing."

With seven front-line batsmen on tour, and England currently using six, it only requires one injury for Ramprakash to find himself considered for selection.