Changing wind leaves Gough in support role

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Wind Dominated conversation as England prepared for their first warm-up match of the winter in Namibia. The Wanderers Ground in Windhoek - German for windy corner - could do with the breeze picking up. Not only would it scatter the threatening clouds which loiter in the hills surrounding the Namibian capital, it would also help dry out the sodden outfield at the venue being used for Monday's clash.

Wind Dominated conversation as England prepared for their first warm-up match of the winter in Namibia. The Wanderers Ground in Windhoek - German for windy corner - could do with the breeze picking up. Not only would it scatter the threatening clouds which loiter in the hills surrounding the Namibian capital, it would also help dry out the sodden outfield at the venue being used for Monday's clash.

But there is one English bowler who will not want the wind to get too strong. For the first eight years of his England career Darren Gough was given the choice of ends by his captain, and, inevitably, he chose to bowl with the wind behind his back. This changed last winter when, in Stephen Harmison, England found a faster and more threatening opening bowler than Gough.

Harmison's heroics cast the Essex paceman into playing a supporting role, something he is unaccustomed to. Gough loved to be the star of the show, the bowler leading England's attack, but injury and age have taken their toll.

The 34 year-old retired from Test cricket in 2003, and following his performances in England's last two one-day games of the summer, several observers feel that his one-day career should also be brought to an end.

"I felt I bowled very well for England last summer," he said yesterday. "Except for the final of the ICC Champions Trophy. I got criticised for my performance against Australia in the semi's (he took 3-48 in seven overs) which surprised me, my team-mates and the management. I didn't bowl any shit, I got the new ball in the right areas and came back brilliantly at the end. Yet I still got criticised for the way I bowled.

"In the final against the West Indies I deserved to get some flak because I did not get it right. The ball was swinging and I could not control it. But people have got to realise that my role in the side now is totally different to that I had five years ago. Somebody has to bowl into the breeze and it is not going to be Steve Harmison when he is bowling at 90 mph. It doesn't upset me. That is my role and I will do anything to play for my country."

Gough's commitment to England's cause has never been questioned, and he showed this before Michael Vaughan's squad set of for Africa when he turned down the chance to earn easy money by appearing on "I'm a Celebrity, get me out of here!"

Gough has also started using a personal trainer, in the hope that it will allow him to reach his goal - playing in the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.

The cricket England play against Namibia and Zimbabwe during the next two weeks may not be very challenging but it should give an indication as to whether Gough still has something to give.

A knee injury caused Gough to miss the 2003 World Cup, and England's only match against Namibia. The size of England's victory in Port Elizabeth - 55 runs - looks comfortable enough but it actually hides the truth.

Namibia were never likely to successfully chase England's total, but at one stage, with rain looking a distinct possibility, they were ahead. This was mainly due to a wonderful innings from Jan-Berrie Burger, who scored a brilliant 85, and Danie Keulder with 46. The pair put on 97 thrilling runs.

Unfortunately, Namibian cricket has not moved on since then. In the build up to the World Cup they were competing in two of South Africa's premier competitions but this changed when the UCBSA decided to reduce the number of teams playing in these competitions, in the hope that the quality of cricket being played would be raised.

The Namibian Cricket Board have done all they can to accomodate England while they are here but yesterday they refused England's requests to make tomorrow's game a 14-a-side affair. "We wanted to play a normal 11-a-side game of cricket," said Namibia's captain Deon Kotze. "It's a huge occasion for our players, the biggest match we've ever played in and possibly even bigger than the World Cup because we're playing this at home."

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