Cooley works on quick answer

One injury stretched England's resources, but the remedy is already in train

This reaction to something to which England had little alternative - picking Paul Collingwood - borders on party pooping. In this epic summer, it seems to be raining on the parade to bother making the point. But it is there to make, and no amount of open-topped double-deckers can make it go away.

Beyond the most fab four since The Beatles, England had to cast desperately around for another seamer, having decreed that they could not put their faith in the untried 24-year-old Chris Tremlett. James Anderson, the fifth Beatle, was summoned out of loyalty, decency and an eye on the future, but his summer in truth was always destined to be spent with Lancashire, rediscovering the beauties and the rudiments of bowling.

There was talk of Andrew Caddick, who might have been a wise choice had shin splints not intervened. There was mention en passant of Ryan Sidebottom, who is in form but has been out of favour for four years and was never even remotely considered for the so-called development squad. The other seam bowlers in that little list were, or rather are, Kabir Ali, Jonathan Lewis, Alex Wharf and Darren Gough. All of them have had indifferent or interrupted summers, or are getting on.

In some ways, it also tells how impor-tant Jones has become to the cause and why it should be emphasised how he has done so, a factor which might ensure that last weekend's pretty pass is not reached again. It is worth remembering that as recently as last winter, observers as experienced as Geoffrey Boycott were damning Jones. Indeed, Michael Vaughan frequently gave the impression that if he and Jones were standing at the top of a hill and the captain had a big hoop he might not have been prepared to let Jones have go at bowling it downwards.

But a look at the first-class averages reveals not one of that sturdy, yeoman stock who might just be able to avoid being clubbed over the Oval gasometer. Over the years, England have been able to call up men like Neil Mallender, Steve Watkin and Martin Bicknell. Not this time. Could it be one drawback of central contracts?

Nor is it helped by the plethora of non-qualified players plying their trade in the counties. It seems almost churlish to single out one county, but it would be fascinating, if ever one could spare the time, to have a discussion with Fred Trueman on his precise thoughts about a South African called Gideon Kruis opening the bowling for Yorkshire.

It is not that in the old days it was ever true that the bottoms of pits were chocker with fast bowlers, and it is debatable whether the armies of West Indian quick bowlers who illuminated the Championship in the Seventies and Eighties did much for the advancement of English bowlers. But the England and Wales Cricket Board have recognised that while bowlers may be born they need to be made into something better.

A fast-bowling group of 45 has been set up, with Stephen Harmison at the top and a couple of Under-15s at the bottom. It is in the hands of Troy Cooley, who has so assisted the English quartet. Neither Harmison, nor Andrew Flintoff, nor Jones would have become the bowlers they are now without Cooley's scientific guidance. His influence was also apparent when Collingwood bowled for England here. He had more pace, bounce and penetration than before. If England have the Fab Four, Cooley is Brian Epstein. But a group of 45 goes much further.

"We monitor them, their progress and their actions, twice a year," said Hugh Morris, the ECB's performance director. "We bring them to the National Cricket Centre in Loughborough and we film them using 18 different high-speed cameras, every single moment from the time they start their run-up. We have the facility to use a skeleton camera so that we can see their bones. In this way we can tell what is going wrong, if anything, early and rectify it."

The bowlers work with a physiologist, Richard Smith, and a physiotherapist, Craig Ransom, who try to ensure that their bodies, being asked to perform a ridiculous contortion, are as best prepared as they can be. It would also be fascinating to extend that discussion with Trueman on this topic.

This scheme depends for its eventual success on early identification of young talent - starting with so-called ABCS: agility, balance, co-ordination, speed - enabling the conversion of young athletes to cricketers. But with bowlers, pace is more or less everything.

"If you have raw pace everything else can be worked on," said Morris. "It is a rare human who can propel a cricket ball at above 85mph." Which is why word spread like wildfire when a 19-year-old called Mark Footit, of Nottinghamshire, bowled in the England nets at Trent Bridge. He was said to be the fastest bowler many had seen all year.

Of course, it will all founder if the first-class counties do not embrace their responsibilities. Hampshire have had justifiable flak for the side they fielded in the C&G Trophy final, which included only two home-bred players and six not qualified to play for England. Hampshire may be the highest profile because they are run by their millionaire benefactor, Rod Bransgrove, who has such understandable aspirations for their ground, the Rose Bowl. But they are not alone.

Morris is optimistic that the introduction of performance-related payments will help. He recognises too that the county academies will have a part to play in nurturing young talent. A player like Jones has become will always be missed, but next time the Ashes are at stake the absence will be masked more easily. Or the National Centre of Excellence might need another rebranding.

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