Cricket: Tudor's big chance to stake his Test claim

TWO DROUGHTS were broken in the high veldt this week as England's first tour victory over first-class opposition was followed yesterday by thunderstorms in Johannesburg. With only a week remaining before the first Test hopes are that rain stays away over the next four days as England take on a combined Northerns/ Gauteng side which, if not able to quite harness the awesome power of Mother Nature's thunderbolts, should at least provide Nasser Hussain's team with their sternest challenge to date.

There is competition within the side, too, and with Andy Flintoff at present able to bat but not bowl, it appears to be a straight fight between Alex Tudor and Gavin Hamilton for the No 8 spot. Philip Tufnell, not playing in this match, could yet come into the equation, but only if the pitch for next week's Test at the Wanderers promises lavish amounts of turn.

A final assessment between the pair will be compounded due to their origins within distinct sub-species of all-rounder: Hamilton stronger with bat, Tudor with ball. Judging their respective contributions, particularly if conditions should favour one discipline over the other, will not be a simple task. If it proves otherwise, all you need is to add Alan Mullally, resting this game, and you have the probable side for the series opener.

Impressions at this stage will be vital, and with the pitch at Centurion Park (about 20 miles north of Johannesburg) rumoured to be fast and bouncy, Tudor should have the edge providing he feels confident enough to release the handbrake. "I believe Alex has the potential to become a batting all- rounder," said the England coach, Duncan Fletcher. "He's an exciting player who gets awkward bounce. I'd like to see him really run in during this match and show everyone what he is capable of."

Daryll Cullinan, arguably South Africa's most talented batsmen, is playing and there is the chance that some psychological points scored over the next few days could easily stay in the mind over the coming weeks.

The Northerns/Gauteng side boasts four other Test players alongside Cullinan, though Adam Bacher, David Terbrugge, Steve Elworthy and captain Clive Eksteen have never been regulars. Still, a seam attack comprising of Elworthy, Terbrugge and the distinctly slippery Greg Smith will offer a healthy challenge to England's batsmen.

"We need stronger opposition to measure ourselves against," claimed Fletcher yesterday. "This way the step-up to Test level won't be as big." A plain speaking man, Fletcher was also keen to see how the off-breaks of Michael Vaughan - without Tufnell, England's sole spinner - fare against better batsmen. "Over here they like to attack the spinner and I want to see how he copes with that," Fletcher said.

Given the tour got off to a humiliating start after England lost the curtain-raiser to a scratch Invitation XI, and despite the modest calibre of the opposition since then, there is still the sense that England are making decent headway. To date, all the top eight bar Alec Stewart have now made runs, while among the specialist bowlers only Dean Headley knows what it feels like not to have a wicket to his name.

Headley, who had a trundle in the nets yesterday, is still not fully recovered from the back strain he sustained in the opening match 17 days ago and will again miss out. With the recently arrived Chris Silverwood as cover, the Kent bowler will be further assessed immediately after the first Test, by which time a decision whether to keep him or not will be made.

ENGLAND (v Combined Northerns/ Gauteng XI, Centurion, today): M A Atherton, M R Butcher, N Hussain (capt), M P Vaughan, A J Stewart (wkt), C J Adams, A Flintoff, G M Hamilton, A J Tudor, A R Caddick, D Gough.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada