Cricket: Time for England selectors to start star gazing: With the home side already two down with four to play in the series, changes look imminent for third Test against Australia at Trent Bridge

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ENGLAND'S cricket selectors meet again this weekend, and we will shortly find out whether they are in juxtaposition with reality, or somewhere else. According to Ted Dexter, there are not many stars worth gazing at on the county circuit, but changes clearly have to be made for the third Test starting at Trent Bridge on Thursday. If the public gets fobbed off with the same old team, it really will be a resignation offence.

Dexter intimated after Lord's that he and his co-selectors were not being battered around the head by alternatives, and if everything was perhaps not entirely tickety-boo, well, it would all come right in the end. Four-two, no problem.

One of the more interesting aspects of Dexter's half-hour ramble was the fact that it went unwitnessed by the team manager, Keith Fletcher, who had done his turn (alongside Graham Gooch) a little earlier. Had he still been in the room, even a mild-mannered sort of chap like Fletcher might have flipped. He has been coming steadily to the boil since India, having begun his term of office with a record of played six, lost six, and it will be a surprise if he takes Dexter's line of 'no worries', as the Australians say, during Sunday's meeting.

The first subject under discussion ought to be the fact that England have lost 120 wickets in their last five consecutive Test defeats, and 84 of them have been taken by spinners. Once back from India's dust bowls, England would be much more competitive we were told, but despite Australia playing only one specialist spinner at Old Trafford, 22 of their 40 wickets have fallen to Shane Warne and Tim May, and one more went to Allan Border's left-arm twiddlers at Lord's.

In the wider context of Test cricket, this is a wonderful statistic, but in narrower terms, it shows that England are unable to play good slow bowling on turning pitches. It is rather amusing, given what happened in the winter, that England have failed to produce the conditions that most suit them over here. It is like trying to grow tomatoes in an igloo.

There is a strange anomaly between domestic and Test match cricket in this country. Were Trent Bridge to be hosting a county match on Thursday, the Nottinghamshire captain, Tim Robinson, and the groundsman, Ron Allsopp, would be discussing how best to make a surface least suited to the opposition. Allsopp is so good at what he does, that he can almost give Robinson an a la carte menu, but when Graham Gooch arrives on Tuesday, he will simply have to take Ron's table d'hote.

We can assume, weather permitting, that it will be dry and true, and probably offering some assistance to the spinners later on. The last thing the TCCB wants is for the ball to be darting all over the place, and hang the fact that it might be England's best chance. Make sure it lasts five days is the battle cry, otherwise there might be vast mountains of smoked salmon and champagne lying around, with no cricket left for the corporate clientele to watch. Or, to be more accurate, as a backcloth to extracting another cork from the bottle.

Trying to release the genie is another matter, but if there is again to be minimal assistance for the traditional English seam-up bowler, the selectors should be sitting down with two thoughts. Which of the batsmen is struggling against spin, and which of our faster bowlers can offer more variety?

In the first case, it seems almost certain that Robin Smith will now be invited to stand down (probably for Mark Lathwell) until he is reacquainted with the type of game he plays best in the West Indies this winter, and it remains to be seen whether Mike Gatting and Graeme Hick did enough in the second innings at Lord's to preserve their places. In Hick's case, they will probably trot out the usual stuff about requiring his all-round ability, even though Halley's Comet makes almost as many appearances as Hick's off-spin.

Alec Stewart will doubtless retain the wicketkeeping gloves on the grounds that he balances the side, and it is hard to believe that the search for a genuine all-rounder is no further forward now than it was at this stage of the 1989 series. Then, when miracles were also required, Ted sent for the head sorcerer, and while Ian Botham's invitation to the pie-throwing contest might be withheld on the grounds that the pies would be cold by the time they got to the batsman's end, he would at least inject some spirit into a hangdog team.

Chris Lewis, who is barely worth a sausage roll at the moment, will have to go, and while it would be nice to see a proper wicketkeeper (such as Jack Russell or Colin Metson) it would leave England with a shortage in the pie-purveying department.

A possible England 12 is: Gooch, Atherton, Lathwell, Gower, Maynard, Stewart, Salisbury, Caddick, Illott, M Bicknell, Igglesden, Such.