James the first, but who comes next?

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The Independent Online

England's selectors are going to find themselves in a dilemma when the triangular tournament is over and they look towards the five Tests against South Africa and try to decide how tobowl them out twice in a match. The choice will not be easy.

Assuming all the main contenders remain fit, there is quite an argument ahead. James Anderson must be the first name to be written down - he was much missed when the selectors decided to rest him against Zimbabwe at Trent Bridge on Thursday. His response yesterday was immediate, as he produced a beauty that came back off the seam and bowled Herschelle Gibbs. There were some others which bounced and moved awkwardly off this docile pitch and later he forced Graeme Smith to chop a ball on to his stumps. Another wicket or two still would not have flattered him. Anderson needs all the bowling he can get for that is the only way he will gain experience, the one thing he badly needs. It will not teach him to bowl better balls than he does now, but he will learn to bowl fewer bad balls.

His opening partner will presumably be Darren Gough, who still has it in him to bowl with hostility while the ball is new. In the one-day games so far he has found it much harder than he once did to come back towards the end of the innings. The longer, more drawn-out nature of Test cricket will suit him better, and he will also find that the red ball does not go soft as quickly as the white one.

After his startling arrival in Test cricket it would be unkind not to continue with Richard Johnson, even though Zimbabwe were not the most formidable of opponents. Johnson is a wonderfully whole-hearted cricketer, but whether he has the pace or the subtlety for stronger opposition remains to be seen.

Andrew Flintoff will obviously be the fourth seamer. It is a great bonus that his bowling has come on so well this year once he was fit. His accuracy rather than his penetration has been his greatest asset although he hit the stumps three times with perfect yorkers at The Oval. He is another who needs lots of bowling.

Where does all this leave Andy Caddick? He will soon be fit enough to start bowling again for Somerset, but it would be surprising if he was in mid-season form by the time the Test series starts on 24 July. If there is moisture about he will be needed, and it may be that he will have to take the place of Gough.

Perhaps the most ticklish question concerns the spin department. Although they often think about it, England should never take the field without a spinner - well, almost never. Ashley Giles, for all his ebullient determination, is, in a sense, a stop-gap. If he plays in the Tests though, he will surely be more anxious to attack and bowl round the wicket. Most of the rest of the world's batsmen play spin better than England's do. Bowling jauntily and amiably from over the wicket in the one-day competition, Giles has been milked at will. The selectors should be looking for an alternative and I would like to see Yorkshire's off-spinner, Richard Dawson, brought back for the Test series.

These are early days, but the South African bowling locker does not to be as full. Of course, they had the bad luck to run into a windmill of an assault by Marcus Trescothick and Vikram Solanki yesterday. Nonetheless, Shaun Pollock may not be quite the force he was, Jacques Kallis has slowed up and Makhaya Ntini looks the best of the bunch. Length and line are so important on this sort of pitch, but generally speaking they couldn't find either when it mattered.

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