Cricket / Third Test: Door opens for Lathwell as Gooch descends order: England selectors ring the changes for the third Test at Trent Bridge with bowling line-up of great potential but precious little experience

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The Independent Online
HALF a decade has gone by since the search began in earnest for someone to fill Ian Botham's tights, but yesterday, at long last, a jubilant cry of 'eureka' was heard from behind the fitting-room curtains. He is actually two years older than Botham, and about half as sprightly, but this is no time for nit-picking. Step forward please, Mr Graham Gooch.

This may not, of course, be seen as a long-term solution to the all- rounder problem, but the England captain will not only bat down the order - possibly at No 6 - in the third Test match at Trent Bridge starting on Thursday, but thanks to a remarkable bowling line-up, Gooch will also take the field as the team's leading Test wicket-taker.

In fact, Gooch's record of 22 Test wickets is 10 more than the entire complement of half a dozen specialist bowlers can muster between them - not an entirely surprising statistic, given that Gooch has played in 103 Test matches, while his six bowlers have a combined total of five.

Ted Dexter said yesterday that the selectors wanted bowlers 'who can take 200 Test wickets' (in which case, three of them are within 200 of this target, and another has only 199 to go) and that 'we feel all the newcomers have the potential to become consistent wicket-takers over a number of years'.

The first criterion towards becoming a consistent wicket-taker, of course, is to get yourself on to the field, and as far as Alan Igglesden is concerned, this is proving to be something of a problem. He missed the opening Test when he damaged his groin during a warm-up session, and he is already doubtful for this one because of a back strain.

Martin Bicknell is his standby in a 13-man squad, while England will perm three more from Andy Caddick, Peter Such, Mark Illott and Igglesden's new-ball partner at Kent, Martin McCague. McCague is said to be fully fit despite jarring an elbow over the weekend, although it his jarring accent - a good bit closer to Kalgoorlie than Canterbury - that is currently causing more of a concern.

McCague may have been born in Northern Ireland, but to all other intents and purposes, he is Australian, a resident of WA, and a keener follower of Aussie Rules footie than the Carling Premier League. No one expects England's cricketers to turn up to work wearing pinstripe suits and bowler hats, any more than Australia's should be recognisable only in corked hats and large moustaches smeared in Vegemite, but England's biggest problem has less to do with losing Test matches as losing their national identity.

McCague, Igglesden, Bicknell, Graham Thorpe, Nasser Hussain and Mark Lathwell represent six changes to the squad selected for the Lord's Test, and having promised before the series that the selectors would do no more than make occasional reference to the scalpel, Dexter and Co have now recognised that England are more astronomical than astrological failures, and have reached for the chainsaw. Out go Mike Gatting, Graeme Hick, Chris Lewis, Phil Tufnell and Neil Foster, and it is hard to believe that Robin Smith would have survived but for his 191 against the tourists over the weekend.

Ordinarily, it would be hard to argue against such an eloquent last- ditch plea for clemency, especially with such a gutsy player as Smith, and the fact that England have named 13 with only one spinner suggests that the rumours that Trent Bridge will be a slow seamer are well founded. However, Australia will almost certainly play both their spinners again, and Smith, who was not exposed to Shane Warne in the tourist game, has now been dismissed by spin in his last 13 international innings.

By contrast, the selectors have taken full account of Hick's fallibility against Merv Hughes, as they have of Gatting's current discomfort against any kind of bowling. As we can take it that the West Indian wicketkeeper will be taking up his customary position next to to the sightscreen this winter, Hick's touring place must now be in jeopardy, although if Gatting's form holds up for Middlesex, he will still be a strong runner for the captaincy.

The make-up of England's squad suggests that all seven batsmen will play (otherwise Caddick will be coming in at No 7), which means that Lathwell has been chosen at last. Lathwell is presumably a keen student of selectoral tradition, as he decided to stop scoring runs over the weekend, and get out for 0 and 4 in a day. Test place guaranteed.

He will open with Mike Atherton, so one of the few things that England currently have going for them (the Gooch/Atherton opening partnership) has been jettisoned. Dexter has been badgering Gooch to drop down the order all summer, and now, possibly after presenting the captain with further evidence from the bottom of his tea cup and his lunar telescope, he has succeeded.

The inclusion of a left-hander means a first cap for Thorpe rather than a 118th for David Gower, which will be heartily applauded, albeit largely by Australians. Hussain is recalled after three caps (which makes him the fifth most experienced player in the 13) because, Dexter says, he has scored four first-class centuries this season and is a high-quality fielder. It was good of Ted to clear that up, otherwise one or two churlish individuals might have thought Hussain was merely next in line on the Essex rota.

Martin McCague's inclusion in the England squad for the third Test brought a quick response yesterday from the Australians, who say they will be raising the question of player migration during next week's International Cricket Council meeting at Lords, which starts on Tuesday.

Graham Halbish, the chief executive of the Australian Cricket Board, said: 'I've got no problems with Martin McCague's eligibility and England are perfectly entitled to pick him. What we are concerned about is player migration. This will be raised at the ICC meeting.'

Halbish continued: 'We have invested in him and players like him to provide depth in Australian cricket. We want a return on our investment.' McCague was a graduate of the Australian Cricket Academy.

(Photograph and chart showing England squad test averages omitted)