Cricket: Qualified praise for two new boys

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The Independent Online
IF anyone in the England camp was tempted to hit the champagne last night in celebration of the successful start to the Illingworth era they had better not have offered anyone to the man himself.

The verdict of the new chairman of selectors was in the 'could do better' mould as he only awarded the team seven out 10 for their performance. 'The bowling was pretty good and the fielding not too bad,' he said, 'but the dropped catches were disappointing. Seven out of 10 from me and I'm sure Mike (Atherton) would agree.'

The England captain, who looked as if he felt eight might be fairer, would not commit himself to a mark but he did agree that there were areas that could be improved. 'It was touch and go at one stage but the boys bowled well under pressure. Graeme Hick's spell was important for us. But I thought we batted 20 runs short and I was not happy with the fielding, the catching must be improved.'

Illingworth was equally frank in his contrasting assessment of debutants Shaun Udal - 'pleased but not perfect' - and Darren Gough - 'tremendous'. 'Shaun's line was a bit variable, too much went down the leg side,' Illingworth said. 'But it was his first game and as a spinner having cold fingers would not have helped.

'Darren was tremendous. His opening burst was really good. He gets the ball chest high from just short of a length, which is a sign of a really good bowler.'

Both may stay in for the match at Lord's tomorrow as Atherton said: 'We are not going to change the team for the sake of it. We will pick the side with the best chance to win.'

New Zealand's selection problems are much greater, with Danny Morrison ruled out for at least 10 days. The tourists' captain, Ken Rutherford, said: 'At this stage he is dicey for the first Test (which starts on June 2). It is a blow to us, he has proved to be our major strike bowler since Paddles (Sir Richard Hadlee) retired and he has experience of English conditions.'

He defended Morrison's decision to bat, adding: 'He is a gutsy guy and he wanted to bat.'

Rutherford gave his own team about four and a half, although Illingworth said: 'They did as good as England.'

He is clearly going to be a hard man to please.