Cricket: Russell misses chance to limit damage

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IT WILL not have taken Graham Gooch and his bowlers more than a ball or two to realise that after losing the toss they were already engaged in a damage-limitation exercise.

The flat, unforgiving surface made it all the more important that whatever chances came England's way should have been accepted.

The one crucial chance came when the double centurion, Aamir Sohail, had reached 105. He came forward to Tim Munton and edged the ball in the air between the wicketkeeper, Jack Russell, and Graeme Hick at first slip. It went away untouched for four.

It was Russell's catch and if he had been full of confidence he would easily have held it. As it was, after a slight initial move to his left which would have prevented Hick from going for it, he stopped and the ball bisected the gap.

Without in any way trying to take the blame away from Russell one could only feel extremely sorry for him. When the side was announced there were intimations that he had only just managed to hang on to the job.

He knew anyway that he was increasingly under the microscope and doubts from within and behind him will have done nothing for an already fragile confidence. Having said that though, there is no doubt that Russell is no longer the keeper he was - there are of course those who say he never was.

The time has come to find a replacement. Obviously, Alec Stewart is a candidate but with so much else to do it would be surely be asking too much of him. Imagine having to open the batting after keeping through the present Pakistan innings which may not end until late today with the score well past 600.

My choice would be Colin Metson of Glamorgan, who has been the best wicketkeeper I have seen this year. One hopes he does not suffer from playing for what may appear to be an unfashionable county.