Hussain back to sparkle for England under lights

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The Independent Online

After what seems to have been an eternity of ice compresses and watching his team win from the sidelines, Nasser Hussain returns to captain England in today's floodlit match against Zimbabwe at Edgbaston.

After what seems to have been an eternity of ice compresses and watching his team win from the sidelines, Nasser Hussain returns to captain England in today's floodlit match against Zimbabwe at Edgbaston.

It will be his first cricket since he cracked his thumb in the field for Essex against Nottinghamshire on 24 June. Digits are particularly vulnerable on a cricket field, and anything but a full recovery will put the rest of his summer in jeopardy if he takes another blow.

"I had a bat just before the game at Old Trafford last Wednesday and I still felt it," Hussain said yesterday. "I've done nothing since, apart from a having round of golf on Sunday to test it out.

"Yesterday was the first time I've not felt it while having a bat since I first did the injury three and a half weeks ago, so I made myself available for selection."

Understandably, given that his own form before the break had been poor, and that since the incapacity his stand-in, Alec Stewart, has overseen a Test win and two one-day victories in his absence, he was looking a bit anxious during yesterday's practice session.

"I'm just looking forward to getting back to the middle," he said, before joking: "Mind you, after the winning roll under Alec, I'm under pressure to make sure I don't end up as the villain of the piece."

As captain, Hussain will call the shots, though he will have to defer to the opening partnership of Stewart and Marcus Trescothick which single-handedly overhauled the 171 set by West Indies at Chester-le-Street on Saturday. That means he will have to bat in the middle order, almost certainly at the expense of Matthew Maynard.

If they were bold, England could play all those yet to have a game in this NatWest series, such as Nick Knight, Paul Franks and Vikram Solanki.

The suggestion is that they probably will not, opting to keep what Stewart calls a "winning formula" going until after the final on Saturday.

Like Hussain, Knight has recovered from his fracture and even played for his county on Sunday, something Solanki and Robert Croft also did.

Unfortunately, the summer has been such a dank one that almost all batsmen feel undercooked and therefore reluctant to give up time at the crease. Mind you, that should not prevent England resting a bowler like Andy Caddick or Darren Gough and giving Franks a run-around before the undertow of the county treadmill sucks him back under.

For those who feel the match has no relevance, the £10,000 prize-money for winning ensures that neither team will be coasting, especially Zimbabwe, whose exchange rate against foreign currencies, keeps climbing.

Their batsmen too, appear to be gaining ground, and Sunday's thrilling win over West Indies will have kept their spirits high. Barring a possible return for the leg-spinner Paul Strang, they are likely to be unchanged.

As one of those counties advocating day-night cricket as the salvation of the game, Warwickshire must be disappointed that only 11,000 tickets out of 18,500 have been pre-sold.

Although England are generally well supported in Birmingham, the razmatazz and loud music that now accompanies one-day cricket may not be for everyone. If it is not, news that Edgbaston's owners have had a noise abatement notice served upon them by the police could bring some of the traditional fans back.

Another way of keeping the noise down might be to play John Cage's "4:33", instead of the anthemic riffage of various Queen numbers and Blur's "Song 2". For those who do not know Cage's music, the avant-garde composer maintained that the spaces between musical notes were as important as the notes themselves.

The aforementioned piece therefore consists of one long space, with only the slight squeak of Cage sitting at his piano audible through the silence. As long as England are as daring, the winning streak they crave should continue.

ENGLAND (from): N Hussain (Essex, capt), A J Stewart (Surrey, wkt), M E Trescothick (Somerset), A Flintoff (Lancashire), G A Hick (Worcestershire), M P Maynard (Glamorgan), G P Thorpe (Surrey), N V Knight (Warwickshire), M A Ealham (Kent), R D B Croft (Glamorgan), C White (Yorkshire), A R Caddick (Somerset), D Gough (Yorkshire), A D Mullally (Hampshire), V S Solanki (Worcestershire), P J Franks (Nottinghamshire).

ZIMBABWE (from): N C Johnson, G J Whittall, M W Goodwin, A D R Campbell, A Flower (capt, wkt), G W Flower, S V Carlisle, D P Viljoen, H H Streak, J A Rennie, B C Strang, P A Strang, G B Brent.

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