Cricket: Martin and Ilott set for another Test chance


The element of surprise might have gone but Peter Martin and Mark Ilott, unexpected choices to lead England's pace attack into the third Test, seem likely to have another crack at the South Africans.

The seven wickets they shared as the home side were bowled out for 225 in that truncated match seems to have kept them ahead of Angus Fraser and Devon Malcolm as the selectors prepare to pick their side for the fourth Test in Port Elizabeth, which starts on Boxing Day.

They have been included in today's team to face a Students' XI at Pietermaritzburg, with Fraser and Malcolm again omitted. The three-day contest is England's last fixture before the Test and Ray Illingworth, the team manager, said: "We'll probably pick the Test side from these 11 players plus Dominic Cork."

Cork, certain to face South Africa next week, has been rested to give Mike Watkinson a chance in case England decide they need a second spinner in Port Elizabeth.

As expected, Jason Gallian goes straight into the team having just completed an arduous 30-hour journey from Pakistan. It has yet to be decided whether he will open with Mike Atherton, his Lancashire team-mate, or bat at No 3.

"I feel a bit wobbly but I'm looking forward to it," said Gallian, who was called up from the A Tour to replace the injured John Crawley.

England's problem over the World Cup squad has been sorted out, with the organisers accepting that the preliminary squad of 20 can be changed until the 20 January deadline.

Originally, when the TCCB submitted 20 names, it merely added the four stand-by men - Neil Fairbrother, Neil Smith, Dermot Reeve and Steven Rhodes - to the squad in South Africa, but the organisers insisted that the final 14 had to be selected from the preliminary 20.

However, yesterday a TCCB spokesman, Richard Little, said: "We have had a letter saying the original request for a preliminary squad was for administration purposes only, but they would like us to get nearer the final squad that we are going to select rather than just give them 20 names.

"So as far as we are concerned until the final 14 goes in, round about 20 January, then we are not restricted in any shape or form."

Returning to domestic matters, Little also said the TCCB aims to restrict the numbers of overseas players with dual qualifications from playing county cricket.

At last week's winter meeting, it revealed that players such as Gloucestershire's Andrew Symonds, who has dual English and Australian qualifications, but has not yet appeared for either country, will have to sign a declaration stating : "I declare that it is not my desire or intention to play cricket for any country outside the European Union and accordingly I will not play and I am not seeking, and will not seek to qualify to play cricket at any level for any such country."

It will have to be signed at the start of every season from next year. Players who refuse to sign will not be registered by the TCCB to play first-class cricket in this country.

Little said: "If a player refuses to sign it, we won't register him as a county cricketer. If the player regards it as a restraint of trade and wants to take us to court that is entirely up to him as an individual. We are quite happy for it to be tested in law."

Little emphasised the hard line being adopted by the Board when he added: "If a player signed the declaration, then half-way through the season broke the agreement, the likely outcome would be that we would refuse to register him as an overseas player in subsequent seasons."

ENGLAND (v Students' XI, Pietermaritzburg, today): M A Atherton (capt), A J Stewart, J E R Gallian, G P Thorpe, G A Hick, R A Smith, R C Russell (wkt), M Watkinson, P J Martin, R K Illingworth, M C Ilott.