England ask which way to turn for Oval

It may not be an existential dilemma to rival that once posed by the one-time Prince of Denmark, but England's selectors will have pondered long and hard before declaring their hand for the final Test of the summer.

It may not be an existential dilemma to rival that once posed by the one-time Prince of Denmark, but England's selectors will have pondered long and hard before declaring their hand for the final Test of the summer.

To win, or to draw? that is the question, and one that could be answered when England announce their squad tomorrow.

A 2-1 lead over the West Indies, going into the final Test, is a position unheard of since the Swinging Sixties. For that reason its novelty is dangerous, though following the euphoria of Headingley, few could blame David Graveney and his panel were they to announce an unchanged team. Yet The Oval has been a bountiful place for spinners this season and England will surely heed its call by adding a specialist tweaker to the 12-man squad that assembled in Leeds 10 days ago.

In an about-turn of their policy earlier in the series, when Robert Croft filled the role, the selectors are likely to favour a spinner turning it into, rather than away from, the West Indies' plethora of left-handers. Which means the role will be filled by either left-arm orthodox or right-arm leggies.

According to those around the shires, Phil Tufnell is still the slow bowler who consistently troubles batsmen the most. The Middlesex man has his advocates, such as the captain, Nasser Hussain, as well as his detractors, now thought to include the coach, Duncan Fletcher, in their number. But, whether you are for or against him, Tufnell remains the season's leading English spinner.

Warwickshire's Ashley Giles is thought to be the other main contender, though murmurs that wrist-spinners were also being considered (presumably the centrally contracted Chris Schofield rather than Ian Salisbury, who has been tried and discarded by England before) have surfaced.

Giles plays in today's NatWest final against Gloucestershire, but a recent injection into a troublesome Achilles tendon means he comes with risk attached. Given that Schofield's wrist-spin also comes with a high-risk tariff, certainly too high for such a crucial match, it is probably a choice, though not a straight one, between Tufnell and Giles.

The sticking point, and why the selectors are thought to be split on the issue, is that Hussain has already announced that those picked for The Oval will automatically go on tour. Tufnell, while a fine bowler, is not a good tourist, a fact Pakistan and Sri Lanka would confirm more rapidly that most.

It would be inconceivable, though, to think that selection for such a crucial Test should hinge on the words uttered by a grateful captain after Headingley. Tufnell and The Oval have become twinned like port and stilton and two of his three finest performances for England have taken place there.

But just as Christmas dinner would be the poorer without the first two, so too would be an Oval turner without Tufnell, wheeling away from the Pavilion End with half of "Sarf London" behind him.

The Middlesex man would certainly provide the more attacking option. Of course, Giles's ability with the bat would shorten the tail and give England greater security, but Tufnell, providing the mood takes him, is the more dangerous bowler.

If a spinner is required next Thursday, and it is virtually a nailed on certainty that one will be, the decision as to which player makes way for them will provide Hussain and Fletcher with one of their more onerous duties of the summer.

After the two-day win at Headingley none of the usual suspects spring to mind, and it would be unthinkable to dropeither Craig White or Graeme Hick after their telling contributions there. Presuming the captain's place is sacrosanct, the two most vulnerable players on recent Test form are Michael Atherton and Dominic Cork, a choice narrowed further by Cork's timely double century for Derbyshire.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Michael Vaughan could be promoted to open the innings with Marcus Trescothick, but it is unlikely. Despite Atherton's current status as Curtly Ambrose's rabbit, the opener is at his gritty best when he knows the parameters of his task - and that is making sure that England don't lose.

England squad (probable): *N Hussain, M A Atherton, M E Trescothick, G P Thorpe, A J Stewart, M P Vaughan, G A Hick, C White, D G Cork, A R Caddick, D Gough, M J Hoggard, P C R Tufnell.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment