Giles hungry to be given second England turn

NatWest quarter-finals give Warwickshire spinner chance to remind national selectors he still has a great deal to offer

The urge to chop and change still proves irresistible to England's cricket selectors. Central contracts, it was said, would usher in a climate of continuity, yet the 13 names chosen for next week's third Test contain five uncontracted players. As ever, the question of where reasonable flexibility stops and muddled thinking begins remains a topic for debate.

The urge to chop and change still proves irresistible to England's cricket selectors. Central contracts, it was said, would usher in a climate of continuity, yet the 13 names chosen for next week's third Test contain five uncontracted players. As ever, the question of where reasonable flexibility stops and muddled thinking begins remains a topic for debate.

Were he not a man of wise counsel, Ashley Giles, Warwickshire's 27-year-old spin-bowling all-rounder, might make an interesting contribution. Giles, currently eligible for one-cap wonder status as a Test player, carries with him the remarkable statistic in one-day international cricket of having been named in a squad but discarded on 32 occasions. His actual appearances total just five, only two of them even within the same series, let alone back to back. To him, certainly, continuity is a concept yet to be experienced.

Last winter, as a member of the party sent to South Africa and Zimbabwe, he might as well have been labelled "unwanted on voyage", failing to win a single call-up. This summer, by his own estimation in the best form of his career, the tall left-armer has barely been mentioned. Little wonder, then, that he feels just a touch frustrated.

However, he is philosophical, too, and definitely not daft enough to kick up a fuss. "All you can do is keep plugging away, hoping to be noticed," he says.

"On tour last winter it was particularly frustrating. After a while, you would start to turn up at the ground expecting not to be picked, which was hard. But you have to live with those things and you can't not go on tour just because you might not play."

Giles, hoping to help Warwickshire into the semi-finals of the NatWest Trophy when they meet Glamorgan at Edgbaston today, made his one-day international debut at The Oval in May 1997, in the second match of the Texaco Trophy series. His figures were undistinguished and he was omitted from the third.

The following summer, the year of his solitary Test cap, he did better against South Africa in the first Texaco match, again at The Oval, taking two wickets, but still not enough to warrant another chance. In October of the same year he faced South Africa again in the Wills International Cup in Bangladesh, but England lost and were eliminated.

The 1998-99 tour of Australia at least brought two appearances in the C&U series but although he impressed with his bowling at the "death" as England beat Australia in Sydney he subsequently did less well against Sri Lanka and was again cast aside.

"It would be nice to have the chance of a run," he agrees. "The trouble is that when you do get a chance you are inevitably nervous, which affects your performance.

"Once you start to settle and you look forward to the second game, thinking you can give a truer account of yourself. But if you don't get picked and three or four more matches go by without getting a game, you are soon back to square one."

If evidence is required of his current well-being - with bat as well as ball - the statistics provide it. A career-best 128 not out against Sussex in the Championship underpins a first-class batting average in the mid-40s, while his bowling has brought him 39 wickets at an average of 22, bolstered by 8 wickets for 90 runs on a turning track at Northampton, just after he was overlooked for England's NatWest Series squad.

"I'm playing the best cricket of my career. I feel my batting has improved and my bowling has come on as well. The pitches have been better and having the best coach in the world to offer his advice has been a boon as well.

"I was not really involved in the first team when Bob Woolmer was here before but I know now why the players have so much respect for him. He does not try to blow your mind with technical stuff but a few helpful pointers here and there and all of a sudden things are a lot clearer, which is why, even more now, it would be nice to have another chance at the highest level."

If this season proves unfruitful, at least another tour beckons. And a successful run in the NatWest is a tried and tested means of catching the eye before travelling parties are assembled. In fact, the current competition has already provided a platform to demonstrate his all-round skills.

In the last round, employed for the first time as a pinch hitter, he spurred Warwickshire to victory over Derbyshire with his first one-day century.

"Even though my batting average would stand comparison with most all-rounders I have always been regarded primarily as a bowler and it was particularly pleasing to get the chance to bat up the order," he says.

"You get used to going in with four or five overs left and trying to hit a soft ball out of the ground so it was nice to get in when the ball was still hard and coming on to the bat."

Something similar today would not be a hindrance, he naturally acknowledges. "You just have to keep plugging away," he says, again.

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