Cork pops back into the frame

One down with four to go is familiar territory for England's cricketers, especially against the West Indies. Five years ago, the deficit was turned around immediately with a win at Lord's, though that was against a complacent side rather than a resurgent one.

One down with four to go is familiar territory for England's cricketers, especially against the West Indies. Five years ago, the deficit was turned around immediately with a win at Lord's, though that was against a complacent side rather than a resurgent one.

On that occasion, team supremo Ray Illingworth made two changes to the side that lost the first Test, both of them in the bowling department - Angus Fraser for Devon Malcolm and Dominic Cork for Phil DeFreitas. In a close match, Cork had a blistering debut, taking 7 for 43 in the second innings with his nippy outswingers.

David Graveney and his panel of selectors may be tempted to do something similar for this Lord's Test and following the gravitational pull exerted by the wheels within wheels that make up the English game, Cork's name is once again in the frame.

So, too, is Alex Tudor's, now that the Surrey man is back in the groove and hustling the ball through at a fair lick. A niggle to Tudor's shoulder might hinder his return, and he will have to convince the selectors that it has cleared up if they are to commit his name to paper.

With Stephen Harmison's sore shins keeping him out of the reckoning, and with Ed Giddins' place in jeopardy after a tepid performance in the last Test, both Cork and Tudor could find themselves back treading the dressing-room lino at Lord's.

While it would be fair to say none of England's batters or bowlers left Edgbaston with much in the way of dignity, Giddins was guilty of the additional crime of looking ineffective on his home ground. As a bowler, the colourful Giddins is what might be termed high maintenance. A wicket-taker when conditions suit him, he unfortunately offers little when they do not.

It may just have been a bad rhythm day but at Edgbaston his 18 overs cost an average of four runs per over, a rate unacceptable for a first-change bowler. At Test level, when things are not in your favour, Plan B must always be to keep it tight.

The bowler best able to do this in recent times has been Fraser though, with age taking its toll, every spell these days is Plan B for the soon to be 35-year-old seamer. With Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose both giving him years he is bound to be discussed, but unless uneven pitches were the order for the rest of the summer, his return would be a retrograde step.

Despite being bowled out for 179 and 125 in their two turns at the crease at Edgbaston, the home team's batting line-up will probably not be tampered with, regardless of the decent scores Michael Vaughan has been getting for Yorkshire.

That does not mean the temptation to change is not there, rather that the month gap that falls between the second and third Tests (to accommodate the triangular one-day series) will give them more time to digest the pickle England's top-order appear to have got themselves into.

The two main concerns are Mark Ramprakash and Graeme Hick though Nasser Hussain's run-drought cannot help matters. Asked to open with Michael Atherton, Ramprakash looks the part when defending the new ball and then gets stuck. For him there appears to be no contingency between dead-batting the ball and then trying to thump it to the boundary when he gets bogged down.

In fact, facing the new ball, especially against old hands like Walsh and Ambrose, is all about rotating the strike and keeping the scoreboard ticking with singles and twos. But if Atherton manages to do it brilliantly, Ramprakash simply does not do it - at least not yet.

Because he is not batting out of position, and therefore does not have to learn new tricks, Hick is a different case. The man who put the "under" into "under-achiever," Hick's technique against hostile fast bowling has always elicited more groans than purrs and while he may not have actually edged the ball he was given out to in the second innings of the last Test, the ball passed his outside edge over middle and off stump.

Against tall, accurate quicks, you cannot continue to bat on leg-stump as Hick does, unless you are confident that the slip cordon have teflon hands. You cannot, as Ramprakash seems to hope, expect to score your runs in boundaries either. With Vaughan and Graham Thorpe building strong cases while waiting in the wings the next Test, the 100th to be held at Lord's, is a big one for both of them.

Possible England squad (Second Test, Lord's, 29 June to 3 July): N Hussain (capt), M A Atherton, M R Ramprakash, G A Hick, A J Stewart (wkt), N V Knight, A Flintoff,R D B Croft, A R Caddick, D Gough,D G Cork, A J Tudor.

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