Darren Gough was given the chance to relaunch his international career yesterday when the Yorkshire fast bowler was named in England's one-day squad for the matches against Pakistan, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Joining the 33-year-old Gough in an inexperienced 15-man party are six players yet to make their one-day international debuts and two who have not represented England since 2000. Injury, retirement and the selectors' broom mean there are only six survivors from the squad who travelled to South Africa in February to compete for the World Cup.
The selection of Kabir Ali, Rikki Clarke, Robert Key, Richard Johnson, Anthony McGrath and James Troughton is a clear indication that the selectors are at last giving youth its chance to impress. Although raw, the squad given to the new England one-day captain, Michael Vaughan, is not quite as innocent as it appears. Key and McGrath are playing in the Test series against Zimbabwe and five of the six who are yet to don the blue of England have previously been involved in squads. Troughton, the dashing left-hander from Warwickshire, can be considered the only complete novice but each has been given first crack at becoming potential members of the 2007 World Cup squad.
Vikram Solanki and Chris Read, should the Nottinghamshire wicketkeeper recover from a broken thumb sustained at the weekend, have both been given recalls, while James Kirtley, Matthew Hoggard, Graham Thorpe and Adam Hollioake are notable absentees.
It is the selection of Gough which causes the most intrigue, however. Written off as an England player and told by a surgeon to go out and find a new career when he returned home early from Australia during the winter, this return to the international arena is a triumph for England's highest wicket-taker in one-day cricket.
There have been a couple of occasions when Gough has attempted to return earlier than recommended but with typical bravado he has continued to claim he would be back. Despite a degenerative right knee and a limited shelf-life it appears the selectors have listened to and liked his tune. Gough has not be en selected just to take wickets. "I think there are two reasons why I have been picked," Gough said. "They miss my bowling and also I can help the younger players. The selectors have been impressed with the way I have worked with the bowlers at Yorkshire and Rod Marsh saw me when I went to the Academy during the winter.
"It helps for them to hear it from someone who has been there. I have played in two World Cups and a hundred and odd one-day internationals - I know what it is like. Some days you can go for 70-odd even though you have bowled well."
He added of his rehabilitation: "There are times when it hurt and I thought I might not last the course, but I never doubted I'd play again. If you don't believe it you won't get back. Selecting young players is good but you also need experience, especially when bowling at the end of an innings. Games can be won and lost in the last four, five overs."
Whether the old sparkle is still there - and there must be doubts, with Gough having been injured for much of the last two years - will be seen on 17 June when England play Pakistan at Old Trafford.
"The bulk of this squad is under 30 and has been chosen with the next World Cup [in the West Indies in 2007] in mind," David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, said. "We are anticipating two tough series this summer, but we believe that now is the right time for us to look at younger players and give them a chance to develop on the international stage. We did consider a number of more senior players and we have not ruled out any particular individuals.
"Darren Gough's selection is an exception to the rule [of planning for 2007]. But he is a proven match-winner who was missed during the World Cup. As well his strike bowling, Darren can play an important role in passing on advice to the younger bowlers."
Of those who failed to make the final 15 it is the omission of Hollioake, the Surrey captain, that is the most sensitive. In three weeks the 31-year-old has moved from a candidate to be one-day captain to a player with little chance of resurrecting his international career.
Although named in the one-day squad, doubts increased over Andrew Flintoff's fitness for the series after withdrawing from next week's second Test against Zimbabwe at Chester-le-Street. Despite playing as a batsman for Lancashire he is still not able to bowl, after being hit on the right shoulder by a beamer during practice.
ENGLAND ONE-DAY SQUAD (NatWest Challenge v Pakistan, 17, 20, 22 June; NatWest Series v Zimbabwe and South Africa, 26 June-12 July): M P Vaughan (Yorkshire, capt), K Ali (Worcestershire), J M Anderson (Lancashire), R Clarke (Surrey), A Flintoff (Lancashire), A F Giles (Warwickshire), D Gough (Yorkshire), S J Harmison (Durham), R L Johnson (Somerset), R W T Key (Kent), A McGrath (Yorkshire), C M W Read (Nottinghamshire, wkt), V S Solanki (Worcestershire), M E Trescothick (Somerset), J O Troughton (Warwickshire).
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