Cricket: Woolmer withdraws

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ENGLAND'S OPTIONS for the appointment of their new coach were yesterday reduced to just three names after Bob Woolmer withdrew from the running - but indicated his interest in taking up the opportunity in the future.

Woolmer, who ends his term as South African coach at the end of the World Cup, announced his expected withdrawal as Duncan Fletcher, Dav Whatmore and Jack Birkenshaw were put through their paces by a six-strong interview panel at Lord's with a view to announcing David Lloyd's successor in the near future.

However, former England batsman Woolmer kept his options open for the post, insisting he would "hope to be involved" in English cricket in the future.

Warwickshire, where Woolmer enjoyed a successful period in the early 1990's prior to joining South Africa, remain favourites to recruit their former coach, while Bangladesh are also interested in utilising his expertise.

"I am flattered by the attention I have been given not only by England, but also by other countries," admitted Woolmer. "However, I feel I need time to reflect on my position after the World Cup as, after five years on the road, I desperately need some rest. It is only fair that England appoint someone immediately as I would not be available until March next year, which is not satisfactory from their point of view. I hope to be involved in English cricket in the future but, in the middle of trying to win a World Cup for South Africa, now is not the time for me to consider taking on another permanent international role."

Woolmer's withdrawal from the England race seems certain to pave the way for the Zimbabwean Duncan Fletcher to be offered the job. In Cape Town the Western Province Cricket Association said Fletcher had the full support of the board in his attempt to become England coach.