Foster can sow seeds of recovery under Flower

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The Independent Online

The only cricket Durham and MCC played here yesterday was the indoor variety in the dressing room. The umpires appeared every hour but the ground was enveloped by the damp. "It's soaking out there," reported James Foster, the MCC wicketkeeper.

The most powerful emotion in the dressing room would have been frustration. Michael Vaughan and Ian Bell, who are contending for the No 3 spot in England's batting order, were anxious to strut their stuff. Robert Key and Foster, both yesterday's men, wanted to show that they deserve to be recalled.

Vaughan had said before the game started: "This isn't a pre-season jolly for us, we want to try and force the issue if we can." But they have not been able to do so for three days. Play was finally called off at 4pm yesterday with Durham marooned on 311 for 4.

Scheduling a fixture to start on 9 April is challenging fate, and only 89 overs had been bowled. They could have been bowled by Durham but, as Vaughan will tell you, cricket is all about decision-making and when Robert Key, captaining MCC, looked at the green wicket on Thursday morning he decided the better part of valour would be to bat second.

As it has turned out, that meant not batting at all for three days. No time now for a carefully constructed, stylish knock. Very little time before the First Test, which starts in 25 days' time. As for Vaughan, all he can hope for is two four-day matches and three one-day games for Yorkshire and some decent weather.

Foster has had enough time in the wilderness to cultivate the modesty in his nature. Essex's skilled gloveman and talented batsman last played for England in 2002. This season, though, his fortunes have revived remarkably. He is one of 25 members of the England Performance Squad, along with two other keepers. He is also on the long list for the Twenty20 World Cup team. The word that springs to mind is resurrection.

"It came as a pleasant surprise," he says. "I'm fairly aware it doesn't mean I'll be playing for England. The guys who have are in front of me now, but it's a long season..."

Foster admits that he thought he would return to international cricket sooner than he might. "Of course it's been disappointing, but I've disassociated myself from the whole England thing."

The likelihood of Andy Flower becoming England's coach is further encouragement. They were team-mates at Essex. "He's a great person to learn off, but if he does become England coach there's plenty of keepers out there," says Foster. He speaks like a man who has learned to live with disappointment.

Foster has had precious little luck in recent years. He grieved over his mother's early death, and surgery on his shoulder last winter prevented him from joining the Lions tour of New Zealand. Having survived ill-fortune, he is more philosophical about his prospects. "I don't want to sit there worrying about an England recall. To me, I'm not really thinking too much about it. Truly, that's how I feel."

Key, meanwhile, endured the news that Stuart Clark, the Australian pace bowler, has been recalled to his country's one-day squad, who are playing in South Africa this week and in Dubai later this month. This puts an end to his controversial early stint as Kent's overseas player this summer.