Cricket: Test candidates await examination: Crawley and Ilott are in position to win promotion for New Zealand series

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The Independent Online
WHEN England's weary tourists arrive back from Antigua tomorrow morning it will be to find their Test places already under threat. At Lord's today the men-in-waiting - the A team that was such a success in South Africa during the winter - meet the county champions Middlesex in a match full of possibilities.

While Michael Atherton's philosophy is to persevere with the players he wants, some changes are inevitable. And with New Zealand as the next Test opponents, the importance of making the first Test team is clear.

The prime candidates are John Crawley and Mark Ilott, who were outstanding tourists. Alan Wells, deputising as captain for the injured Hugh Morris, Robert Croft, Martin McCague and Peter Such are also in contention as is the wicketkeeper Steve Rhodes.

Both sides are under strength. Middlesex have four players in the Caribbean and John Emburey injured while England A are also without Dominic Cork and Darren Gough, both hoping for Test match action this summer.

Cork, like Morris, is still recuperating from a knee operation, though both expect to be fit for the opening county matches next week. Gough is on tour with Yorkshire.

With Mark Lathwell left out to find form at Somerset, Darren Bicknell has been called up. The rest of the side all toured South Africa. Bicknell's brother, Martin, who was injured on tour, and his replacement, Paul Taylor, are included.

'There is a lot to play for,' Morris said. 'After events in the West Indies there must be places open and this match has taken on extra importance.'

Middlesex are expected to give first-class debuts to Toby Radford, who led the second XI's batting averages with 104.85, and the former Hampshire bowler, Kevin Shine.

Last year Peter Such, with 11 wickets in this match, bowled himself into the Test team although he was playing against England A for Essex, who won by nine wickets.

ENGLAND A SQUAD (from): D J Bicknell (Surrey), J P Crawley (Lancashire), A Dale (Glamorgan), *A P Wells (Sussex), M B Loye (Northamptonshire), S J Rhodes (Worcestershire), R D B Croft (Glamorgan), M P Bicknell (Surrey), M C Ilott (Essex), P M Such (Essex), M J McCague (Kent), J P Taylor (Northamptonshire).

MIDDLESEX (probable): M A Roseberry, J C Pooley, *M W Gatting, J D Carr, P N Weekes, K R Brown, T A Radford, M A Feltham, N F Williams, R L Johnson, K J Shine.