The visitors' dressing-room at Chelmsford is small enough at the best of times. Yesterday, following the announcement of England's Test and one-day squads for Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, it must have resembled a broom cupboard. Yorkshire's players, preparing for their crucial floodlit game against Essex, would not have known how to react.
In one corner, after hearing that he had been selected for England's Test squad, sat an elated Matthew Hoggard, in the other a dejected Darren Gough. In his last one-day game for England, Gough, with remarkable figures of 2 for 9, was man of the match. But this performance was not enough to win the 32-year-old fast bowler a place on England's pre-Christmas trips to Asia.
Other than the selection of Surrey's Rikki Clarke, there were few surprises in the 15-man Test squad that leaves for Bangladesh on 7 October. James Kirtley, England's man of the match at Trent Bridge, and Robert Croft may consider themselves unfortunate but those named offer a pleasant balance between experience and youth. Clarke is not the only debutant travelling to Dhaka for England's inaugural Test in that country. The all-rounder will be joined by Paul Collingwood, Gareth Batty and the Kent wicketkeeper, Geraint Jones.
After spending most of the summer sidelined with a knee injury, Hoggard is the man Michael Vaughan needs to hit form. In the first 13 of his 19 Test appearances Hoggard showed he was capable of becoming the bowler England's captain wants, namely someone he can confidently throw the ball to and know what to expect. In his last six games - where his 11 wickets cost 58 runs each - he let his standards slip, but in a squad containing only two other strike bowlers it is imperative that Hoggard gets things right.
On the slow, low surfaces of the sub-continent, runs should not be a problem for a powerful top six that contains Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick, Mark Butcher, Nasser Hussain, Graham Thorpe and the ever-improving Andrew Flintoff. Should illness or injury befall any of these England have, in Collingwood and Clarke, two talented all-rounders whose strength lies in their batting.
But David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, hinted that the pair may get a chance earlier than expected. "The inclusion of Collingwood and Clarke in the squad will also give us the option, where necessary, to strengthen our batting line-up still further and build totals which the captain can defend with what is a young and relatively inexperienced bowling attack," he said.
Clarke should not yet be thought of as an all-rounder but his batting has a touch of class about it. "I know I need to improve my bowling to become a genuine all-rounder," Clarke said. "I need to bowl more so that I can get the rhythm I want, but I do not get the opportunities I would like at Surrey because of the bowlers we have."
By restricting their squad to 15, England's attack looks a bowler short. But the six one-day matches before the infinitely tougher Test series in Sri Lanka allow them to reassess after their two Tests in Bangladesh. If the selectors then feel the bowling needs strengthening, there is the option to keep Kirtley, Richard Johnson and Ian Blackwell on, or fly in either Croft or the Northamptonshire off-spinner Jason Brown.
The wicketkeeper's position is more clear-cut. "Chris Read will be our first-choice keeper," Graveney said, "and Geraint Jones will understudy him."
Hoggard will toil with James Anderson and Steve Harmison in the extreme heat that this region can produce, yet Bangladesh offers the trio a perfect stage on which to hone the skills which were lacking on too many occasions against South Africa.
Graveney attempted to play down the omission of Gough, stating that England's highest one-day wicket-taker still has a chance of travelling to the West Indies in April.
"Gough is still very much part of our plans," he said. "When I told him the news he made his feelings clear but, as part of our planning for the 2007 World Cup, the selectors needed to look at other options regarding bowling bearing in mind the playing conditions in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka."
After fighting back from a career-threatening knee injury Gough was naturally disappointed. "I actually knew this would happen," he said. "I was the easy target. After all the bowlers they used this season with the injuries they have had, they have got themselves in a pickle. They could not leave James Kirtley out of everything. I know the players are with me. They thought I should be picked and that's the most important thing for me. If there are better bowlers in one-day cricket then so be it."
The only uncapped player in England's limited-over squad is the Middlesex opener Andrew Strauss, and the selectors will have a good opportunity to assess his credentials for the Caribbean and next summer.
Simon Jones, the Glamorgan fast bowler who ruptured ligaments in his right knee on last winter's tour of Australia, continues his rehabilitation at the National Academy. He will be joined by Nottinghamshire's Kevin Pietersen, even though the South African-born all-rounder is not available for England until 2005.
ENGLAND SQUADS FOR BANGLADESH AND SRI LANKA
M P Vaughan* (Yorkshire, capt) Age 28 Tests 35, M E Trescothick* (Somerset) 27 38, M A Butcher* (Surrey) 31 56, N Hussain* (Essex) 35 86, G P Thorpe (Surrey) 34 78, P D Collingwood* (Durham) 27 0, R Clarke (Surrey) 21 0, A Flintoff* (Lancashire) 25 26, C M W Read (Nottinghamshire, wkt) 25 3, G O Jones (Kent, wkt) 27 0, A F Giles* (Warwickshire) 30 25, G J Batty (Worcestershire) 25 0, J M Anderson* (Lancashire) 21 7, M J Hoggard (Yorkshire) 26 19, S J Harmison (Durham) 24 11.
*Given one-year central contracts
M P Vaughan (Yorkshire, capt) Age 28 ODI 35, M E Trescothick (Somerset) 27 70, V S Solanki (Worcestershire) 27 18, A McGrath (Yorkshire) 27 10, P D Collingwood (Durham) 27 38, R Clarke (Surrey) 21 7, A J Strauss (Middlesex) 26 0, A Flintoff (Lancashire) 25 62, C M W Read (Nottinghamshire, wkt) 25 19, A F Giles (Warwickshire) 30 32, G J Batty (Worcestershire) 25 2, J M Anderson (Lancashire) 21 23, R J Kirtley (Sussex) 28 9, R L Johnson (Somerset) 28 7, I D Blackwell (Somerset) 25 14.Reuse content