England must take ruthless approach and recall Anderson

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The Independent Online

England's selectors need to show the same ruthless streak as the cricketers they pick when they announce their side for the third Test here at Trent Bridge this morning. Many would consider it wrong to change a winning side, especially one that thrashed the same opponents by nine wickets on Monday and sit on the verge of a 3-0 whitewash, but it is in England's long-term interest to select James Anderson ahead of Martin Saggers.

England's selectors need to show the same ruthless streak as the cricketers they pick when they announce their side for the third Test here at Trent Bridge this morning. Many would consider it wrong to change a winning side, especially one that thrashed the same opponents by nine wickets on Monday and sit on the verge of a 3-0 whitewash, but it is in England's long-term interest to select James Anderson ahead of Martin Saggers.

Saggers took 3 for 91 and performed admirably in the second Test but the Kent swing bowler would not have played had Simon Jones and Anderson not sustained foot injuries in the build-up to the match. Jones is out of action for some time but Anderson, after resting his bruised left heel for a week, is fit.

"It will be a tough decision for the selectors," admitted Michael Vaughan, the England captain. "It is a headache we are happy to have. It is a good sign because it shows me that we have got depth in this area. Jimmy [Anderson] was very unfortunate to miss out at Leeds. The injury to Simon [Jones] meant he would have played in the last Test but Martin Saggers came in at Headingley and did a good job. He looked the part and when the ball swings he is a huge threat."

Dropping Saggers may seem harsh but this is not a must-win game. The series has already been wrapped up and the selectors know the team's future lies in the hands of the 21-year-old Anderson rather than Saggers.

Anderson exploded on to the international scene 18 months ago when he joined the one-day squad in Australia. After impressive displays Down Under, the Lancashire paceman proceeded to have an excellent World Cup. But since taking five wickets on his Test debut and a hat-trick in a NatWest Challenge against Pakistan, his halo has slipped.

Anderson's exploits in this period of non-stop cricket took their toll and he finished the 2003 season tired, injured and short of pace. Subsequent injuries to his knee, ankle and heel prevented him from capitalising on an exciting start. He played one Test in Sri Lanka before Christmas but since then he has had to sit on the sidelines while the other fast bowlers have taken the glory.

"It has been frustrating," admitted Anderson. "I am just itching to get out there and take the chance when it comes. I try not to let things like that get me down because I am still pretty young and hopefully I've got a long career ahead of me. Seeing the way the lads bowled in the West Indies and in the two Tests against New Zealand has made me even more determined to squeeze back into the team. I think it has made me hungrier to succeed."

His pace seems to have caused the selectors the greatest concern. When he first broke into the side his whippy action allowed him to bowl consistently in the high 80s. But since then he has struggled to reach 85mph.

The good news is he feels he is back to his best. "I am considerably quicker than I was at the end of last summer," he said. "The swing is still there and I've got a little bit of the pace back from when I started with England so hopefully, if selected, I will have the same success."

Anderson took 5 for 102 in last year's Test at this venue but he will find this pitch less helpful than the one used against South Africa. It was cracked and ugly, offered indifferent bounce and was a nightmare to bat on. Yet this year's pitch looks a belter. Positioned in the middle of this beautiful ground, it resembles a white table cloth and should play like the batsman-friendly surfaces that Michael Atherton filled his boots on in the Nineties.

England's bowlers, led by the brilliant Stephen Harmison, have shown they can take 20 wickets on most surfaces. If New Zealand are to avoid another hiding they will have to do the same.

The loss of the strike bowler Shane Bond is a major blow, as is Daniel Vettori's torn hamstring. After he was carried off at Headingley it is inconceivable that the spinner will play, which will force the Black Caps to start with five quick bowlers.

To give their attack variety James Franklin, a left-arm swing bowler from Wellington, looks set to play and Kyle Mills may make his Test debut ahead of the disappointing Daryl Tuffey. Michael Papps broke a finger at Leeds and could well be replaced by Craig McMillan, who is recovering from a similar injury.

New Zealand are in desperate need of a boost and this could come from Chris Cairns, who will turn 34 during his final Test. "I will miss playing Test cricket with him," said Stephen Fleming, the New Zealand captain. "This is the right time for him to go but we hope that he has got something special to finish with. For a team that does need some inspiration from one of its senior players, this is the perfect stage."

* Jermaine Lawson was called up to replace Fidel Edwards in the West Indies' 15-man squad for the triangular one-day NatWest Series in England. Edwards sustained a hamstring strain against Bangladesh at Sabina Park.

WEST INDIES: B C Lara (capt), C H Gayle, D S Smith, R R Sarwan, S Chanderpaul, R L Powell, D R Smith, D J J Bravo, D J G Sammy, R D Jacobs (wkt), C S Baugh, I D R Bradshaw, R Rampaul, T L Best, J J C Lawson.

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