Cricket: Tufnell's flight to help England take wing: Scyld Berry on the selectors' options for the fifth and deciding Test match starting on Thursday

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The Independent Online
WHILE deliberating over their party for the final Test at the Oval, to be announced today, England's selectors may have paused to ask why the number of players in a team came to be enshrined as 11. Their job would have been so much more straightforward, in this case, had it been 10.

The first six who played in that snarling, simmering encounter at Headingley should see out the series: Gooch, Atherton, Smith, Stewart, Gower and Ramprakash. Now that Mark Ramprakash has ended the spell cast upon him by Clayton Lambert, after going a year without a Test run, he should stay, particularly as there will be many acres of the Oval to defend, with few fleet legs and strong arms.

Four bowlers should complete the 10, starting with Devon Malcolm, and, after whatever goading or beseeching it takes to make him fire, Chris Lewis. In the Old Trafford Test, where the pitch was similar to the Oval, Malcolm and Lewis in the first half-hour produced several involuntary twitches from Pakistan's opening pair. Ramiz was hit on the right thumb, while Sohail fended a lifter over the slips, before they settled down to some panache.

At the Oval, incoming batsmen have to be given the kitchen sink. In 1987, when England had to bowl Pakistan out to level the series, they took early wickets and were going well when Javed Miandad, wretchedly out of form, hooked at Dilley. Foster, at long- leg, was a fraction slow in moving forwards and the ball fell short. Miandad was not out of form by the time he reached 260.

In the sloppiness that is most three-day county cricket, certainty in the field in the first session is not vital, although it should come to be perceived as such in four-day games. At the Oval, if England have to bowl first, they have to do so with a touch of urgency, not with too much of the patience which the England management likes to counsel and which was right for Headingley.

The third seamer should be Neil Mallender, and not because he deserves a second chance, for that would be feeble reasoning, and condescending. Mallender was applauded to the wicket at Taunton on Friday evening, by crowd and Sussex players alike, and, on his arrival, Franklyn Stephenson patted him on the back: recognition that Mallender's eight wickets at Headingley were more than hack-work.

Mallender should play because he is fitter than DeFreitas, faster than Pringle, and moves the ball away from the bat more than Munton. Of stock bowlers available he is the most likely to bowl 25 overs and take two for 70.

The fourth bowler has to be Phil Tufnell, the only match-winning spinner in Test cricket, although Mushtaq Ahmed might become one this week. It has been suggested that Ian Salisbury should be a second spinner, but the idea does not stand up to examination. When Tufnell took his six wickets in the West Indian first innings last year, it was with flight, not spin. If there had been spin, Tufnell would have done better than 1 for 150 in the second innings, when the West Indians disciplined themselves.

Salisbury was exceptional at Lord's, partly because of his novelty for the Pakistanis, partly because the dry pitch allowed irregular, unpredictable, turn and bounce, as when he had Miandad thrusting forward and caught at slip. Old Trafford was entirely predictable, and Salisbury took 0 for 184 from 33 overs. Nor will the Oval, on the evidence of recent Tests, allow unpredictable turn.

So who is to fill the 11th position, if not a second spinner? It could be a specialist batsman, like Allan Lamb; or a specialist wicketkeeper, like Jack Russell; or a specialist slip-fielder, as Graeme Hick has become; or an all- rounder, like Ian Botham.

It is not the case, as some have said, that if six batsmen cannot do the job, then seven won't. The success of the measure depends on who the seventh batsman is. Two Nottinghamshire players have done well in that position: Dodge Whysall in Australia in 1924-25, and Derek Randall, who in two consecutive Tests against New Zealand scored 83 and 164, in both cases when five wickets had gone cheaply and the runs were valued.

Now the only possible, proven seventh batsman would be Lamb. But the current is against him, when he is batting at his best, after years of favoured treatment. He has clearly been eliminated from the touring party for India, not only on the grounds of his method against spin, but as an 'old lag', when tours of Asia are best undertaken with young keen types. To bring him back would be to put those plans at risk.

A specialist wicketkeeper would be desirable, if only in the interests of Alec Stewart, who could then focus on his batting at No 3. It goes against the evidence to assume that Stewart can do both jobs. In fact, when he keeps wicket, he is a less effective batsman than Russell is. Russell has a Test average of 27; Stewart, in four Tests as keeper, one of 15.

The one justification for staying with Stewart at the Oval is that local knowledge will help his batting and the even bounce his wicketkeeping. Thereafter, the sooner everyone realises Alan Knott was a freak, the better: no other modern has done both jobs consistently other than Jeff Dujon in his first three or four years of Test cricket. Even Rod Marsh (26) averaged less than Russell does.

But ultimately it is a fifth bowler who is required on a batting pitch, and because precedent is powerful, it is conceivable that Botham has not played his last Test. Stewart at six, Botham at seven, Lewis at eight: because it occurred a year ago, and so successfully, there must be a likelihood it will recur. If Botham succeeds, there will be no requirement to take another old lag to India.

However, England have to try and win this week, even if they would be secretly content with a draw. A fifth, specialist bowler is necessary: as David Millns is injured, it has to be DeFreitas, if his groin can be guaranteed to last, or Pringle, bowling outside off- stump and frustrating Pakistan's wristy right-handers. My 11 would be: Gooch, Stewart, Smith, Gower, Ramprakash, Stewart, Lewis, Pringle, Mallender, Tufnell and Malcolm.