Read and Trescothick face exit as England fine tune
To be looking to make changes to an England side who have just created history in the Caribbean would appear unnecessary and ungrateful. It is not every day that an England team stand on the verge of whitewashing the West Indies in their own back yard. But this is what Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher, England's captain and coach respectively, need to do if they wish to see their side continue to develop.
This England team have played some wonderful cricket in the past four weeks. The fast bowlers and the middle order have been outstanding. But the performances of these players have overshadowed others who have struggled. And it is these areas which need to be looked at and addressed if England are to regain the Ashes in 2005.
Vaughan admitted this following England's eight-wicket win in Barbados when he said his side were only 60 to 70 per cent of the team he wants them to be. By this he indicated that there are three or four positions in the side he is not totally happy with.
Of these, it is the place of Chris Read which is most under threat. England are unlikely to change their wicketkeeper for the fourth Test in Antigua but he could become a casualty before the first of this summer's Test matches against New Zealand.
"Chris Read's keeping has been good on this tour," Fletcher said. "But he has to get a few more runs. He has been given a good run and it is an area we might have to look at."
Read has looked tidy behind the stumps and taken every chance, but more is expected from a keeper in this era. The batting of Adam Gilchrist, Alec Stewart and Mark Boucher gives a team better balance and it is this which England are looking for. Ideally England want a wicketkeeper capable of holding down a place in the top six. This means he has to average 35 with the bat; Read averages 15.3.
A player of this calibre would allow Andrew Flintoff to bat at seven - a position that his style is more suited to. At six the Lancashire all-rounder attempts to play like a top-order batsman but he is better off going out there with the freedom to give the ball a smash. And batting at seven would allow him to do this.
The challenge for England is finding such a player. Geraint Jones, Read's understudy here, looks a proper batsman and may get the first chance after impressing Fletcher in his one game in the Caribbean. Another possible alternative is Andrew Strauss. The Middlesex captain is primarily an opening batsman but he possesses a natural eye for a ball. Strauss has kept occasionally for his county and will feature in England's one-day games at the conclusion of the Test series. His keeping would need a lot of attention before he could even be considered for Test cricket, but Boucher was primarily a batsman before he became South Africa's gloveman.
Should Strauss impress with bat over the next six weeks, he may tempt England's selectors to review the opening partnership. Marcus Trescothick and Vaughan have not been giving England the starts they would have wanted for quite some time and their partnership of 57 in the second innings in Barbados was the highest of this tour.
If the pair were to be split up, Trescothick would be the man to go. His average of 37.8 in a run of 20 Test matches looks healthy but if the 433 runs he scored in consecutive Tests against South Africa and Bangladesh are taken out, this comes down to 27.5.
England would be reluctant to axe the Somerset opener but dropping down the order is currently not an option. Three, four and five are filled by Mark Butcher, Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe. This decision could be delayed until Hussain announces his retirement.
West Indies have dropped Shivnarine Chanderpaul for the fourth Test after he managed 101 runs in six innings. He has been replaced by the 25-year-old Test rookie Sylvester Joseph.
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