Fielders hold the key to England's revival

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The Independent Online

England's selectors have four weeks to come up with a 14-man squad that is capable of winning September's Champions Trophy. After watching New Zealand and the West Indies ruthlessly expose the shortcomings of Michael Vaughan's one-day side during the recent NatWest series, this is an unenviable task.

Yesterday England gave a strong hint of who will play in one-day cricket's second biggest tournament when they announced their preliminary squad of 30. Each of the 12 countries competing are still allowed to select players from outside this group in their final 14 but it is assumed that those who make the cut on 10 August will be from within this group.

England's 30 contained 10 uncapped players but few surprises. Mark Butcher was overlooked and his exclusion from the squad suggests that the 31-year-old will be remembered as the most capped Test player never to play one-day internationals since the limited-over form of the game was introduced in 1971.

After declaring England's hand, David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, admitted there were certain areas which caused him and his committee concern. The ability of England's bowlers to take wickets was one and the quality of fielding was another.

With this in mind England look set to make changes from the team which won one of its five matches in the NatWest Series. Warwickshire's Ian Bell can expect to spend the last three weeks of the season wearing the three lions rather than a bear on his chest.

Bell should supersede Robert Key, but this must not prevent the selectors picking the Kent opener ahead of his replacement for England's Test tour of South Africa in December. Key once again looked out of place in the one-day game but his success in county cricket ought to be rewarded.

The selectors also need to look further afield than Anthony McGrath, Ian Blackwell and Ashley Giles. None of these three are likely to change the course of a one-day game, and all are limited as fielders.

There would be an element of risk in replacing them with Michael Powell, Graham Napier and Gareth Batty. Each is inexperienced but their mobility and energy in the field would send out the right message. Napier would owe his selection to the shortage of genuine all-rounders in England, but he is the best bits-and-pieces bowler in the squad.

The quality of the fielding says a lot about an individual and the side he plays for. It is the area of a player's game which can be improved on most through hard work and a poor fielder shows a lack of commitment to the sport and his team. It is also safe to say that a good fielding side has a good team spirit.

One-day cricket is constantly evolving. The modern view is that taking wickets is the key to keeping their opponents down to a competitive total. In the past accuracy was perceived to be the essential ingredient to containment.

Darren Gough appears to have lost the ability to knock over batsmen at the top of the order or take wickets by reverse-swinging the old ball at the back-end of an innings, but he still has a role to play. The Essex fast-bowler may find himself handing the new ball to James Anderson in September but he remains England's most accurate bowler - and despite what people say bowlers of this style can still win matches.

If Simon Jones proves his fitness during the Test series against the West Indies he may force his way into the final 14, but my final spot would go to Chris Tremlett. England play their two group matches at Edgbaston and the Rose Bowl, venues where an accurate 6ft 7in seamer should thrive in September.


County Age Caps

*Michael Vaughan Yorks 29 49

Kabir Ali Worcs 23 1

*James Anderson Lancs 21 36

*Gareth Batty Worcs 26 5

*Ian Bell Warwicks 22 0

Ian Blackwell Somerset 26 23

Rikki Clarke Surrey 22 17

*Paul Collingwood Durham 28 52

Richard Dawson Yorks 23 0

*Andrew Flintoff Lancs 26 74

Alex Gidman Gloucs 23 0

Ashley Giles Warwicks 31 37

*Darren Gough Essex 33 131

*Stephen Harmison Durham 25 16

*Geraint Jones Kent 27 5

Simon Jones Glamorgan 25 0 Robert Key Kent 25 5

James Kirtley Sussex 29 11

Jon Lewis Gloucs 28 0

Anthony McGrath Yorks 28 13 Sajid Mahmood Lancs 22 1

*Graham Napier Essex 24 0

*Michael Powell Glamorgan 27 0

Chris Read Notts 25 28

Vikram Solanki Worcs 28 21

*Andrew Strauss Middx 27 11

*Chris Tremlett Hants 22 0

*Marcus Trescothick Somerset 28 85

Mark Wagh Warwicks 27 0

Alex Wharf Glamorgan 29 0

* Angus Fraser's predicted final selections