Salisbury steps into England's spin vacuum

Surrey bowler is handed surprise opportunity to resurrect Test career on winter tours to Pakistan and Sri Lanka
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The Independent Online

The barren state of England's spin cupboard was confirmed yesterday when Ian Salisbury was recalled to the England squad that will tour Pakistan and Sri Lanka this winter. The 30-year-old wrist-spinner last played a Test match against Sri Lanka at The Oval in 1998, where his performance of 1 for 86 was so haphazard he was laughed at by his home crowd.

The barren state of England's spin cupboard was confirmed yesterday when Ian Salisbury was recalled to the England squad that will tour Pakistan and Sri Lanka this winter. The 30-year-old wrist-spinner last played a Test match against Sri Lanka at The Oval in 1998, where his performance of 1 for 86 was so haphazard he was laughed at by his home crowd.

In his Test career, which began in 1992, Salisbury has taken 19 wickets from 12 Tests, at an average of 70. This then is not some desperately unlucky bowler, but a man who appears to suffer chronic stage-fright. In fact, he has been dropped and recalled seven times, which means the current crop of England selectors either have appalling memories, or are more forgiving than Carmelite nuns.

Speaking at yesterday's press conference, the chairman of selectors, David Graveney, attempted to justify the selection by listing the improvements he and his panel believed Salisbury had made this season.

"It was a close thing between a number of bowlers," said Graveney, "but we decided to go for Ian as we believe we've noticed a greater mental strength in his bowling now.

"Apart from when Yorkshire's Darren Lehmann got after him, he's been very consistent and has an impressive strike-rate in the second innings, when spinners are expected to take their wickets. We also believe he will benefit from being involved from the start rather than being drafted in half-way through a series, as has been the case in the past."

With 40 wickets at a shade under 20 runs apiece this season for Surrey, it looks to be a fair point. Yet like the small print on free gift offers, closer inspection reveals more caveats than coronets.

For one thing, in Pakistan, Salisbury will be playing against, rather than with his Surrey team-mate Saqlain Mushtaq, whose sheer bafflement of county batsmen will have accounted for at least 10 of Salisbury's wickets this season. In any case, so few batsmen in county cricket play spin with any conviction, that any perceived improvements made by spinners must be treated with the utmost scepticism.

Lastly, this winter will bring him back to face two of his biggest tormentors in their own backyard, namely Pakistan's Saeed Anwar and Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya. Both players scored big hundreds at The Oval and on both occasions Salisbury was made to look innocuous.

Of course, it is not Salisbury's fault that the selectors keep returning to him. County cricket is bereft of homegrown spinning talent, a state of affairs that has forced Durham to seek the services of 48-year-old John Emburey, who retired from first-class cricket three seasons ago, for the game against Surrey.

Choices therefore are few and having clearly decided that a punnet of strawberries travels better than Phil Tufnell, it is difficult to see where else they could have gone to provide support for Ashley Giles, other than to resurrect the unimpressive Robert Croft or the ageing Peter Such.

Chris Schofield, a surprising choice for the summer's central contracts, is clearly not the finished object, though there is a school of thought, mainly an Australian one, that says deep-end learning is quicker and better than most.

Mind you, Pakistan presents the kind of learning curve for spinners that requires ropes and crampons, so you can perhaps understand the selectors' view that Schofield, who may yet be called up for the Sri Lanka leg next February, would be better off on an A tour, such as the one going to the West Indies. "I feel sorry for the guy," said Salisbury. "Chris has huge ability and talent for the future. It's no accident that there hasn't been a successful leg-spinner in this country for years, but hopefully people are more understanding about leg-spin now. Certainly the mistakes that have been made by me and the people controlling me won't be made with Chris."

With the 12 selected for next Thursday's final Test already guaranteed a place on tour, only four berths were available. With Andrew Flintoff and Matthew Hoggard widely expected to make the trip, the main surprise after Salisbury was Paul Nixon, who will undertake the role of reserve wicket-keeper.

Nixon, soon to be 30, was felt to be a good tourist who would remain upbeat despite limited opportunities to play. These days modern tours offer few matches outside the Tests, so unless injury befalls the first choice, opportunities are few. Which is why Chris Read, last winter's understudy to Alec Stewart, was felt to be better off going on an A tour.

Not so Flintoff, who is also included in the one-day squad that goes to Kenya for the mini-World Cup in early October. The Lancashire player must prove that he is fit to bowl, if he is to remain in the squad for the Test series that begins in Pakistan on 15 November. The same applies to Alan Mullally, who, having ruled himself out of the Test series with a long-standing rib injury, is available for the one-day competitions.

Unlike the majority of his team- mates involved in both Test and one-day squads (there are ten in all), Flintoff will probably not be rested from county duties over the final fortnight of the season. Others might be released too, particularly if their counties are interestingly poised in the Championship, and the England coach Duncan Fletcher has promised to review the situation later in the week.

Fletcher, who has been a revelation as coach, is also expecting to discuss an extension to his contract which runs out after the Ashes series next summer. In just under a year he has made England into a more combative unit, and both players and employers alike would like that to continue.

"I hope he wants to stay on," said Graveney. "Duncan has gained the respect of all the team. But it is a nomadic life and that is a consideration for anyone with a family."

ENGLAND TOURISTS AND ITINERARY

TEST SQUAD

N Hussain (Essex, capt) Age 32 Tests 52, M A Atherton (Lancashire) 32 101, M E Trescothick (Somerset) 24 2, G P Thorpe (Surrey) 31 59, A J Stewart (Surrey, wkt) 37 101, M P Vaughan (Yorkshire) 25 7, G A Hick (Worcestershire) 34 59, C White (Yorkshire) 30 11, D G Cork (Derbyshire) 29 30, A R Caddick (Somerset) 31 36, D Gough (Yorkshire) 29 42, A F Giles (Warwickshire) 27 1, A Flintoff (Lancashire) 22 9, I D K Salisbury (Surrey) 30 12, M J Hoggard (Yorkshire) 23 1, P A Nixon (Kent, wkt) 29 0

ONE-DAY TOUR SQUAD

N Hussain (Essex, capt) Age 32 ODI 45, M E Trescothick (Somerset) 24 7, A J Stewart (Surrey, wkt) 37 132, A Flintoff (Lancashire) 22 15, G A Hick (Worcestershire) 34 112, G P Thorpe (Surrey) 31 61, C White (Yorkshire) 30 31, M A Ealham (Kent) 30 55, A F Giles (Warwickshire) 27 5, A R Caddick (Somerset) 31 25, D Gough (Yorkshire) 29 81, A D Mullally (Hampshire) 31 41, N V Knight (Warwickshire) 30 53, M W Alleyne (Gloucestershire) 32 9

ICC KNOCKOUT TROPHY, KENYA

Match one, Tues 3 Oct - India v Kenya Match two, Wed 4 Oct - Sri Lanka v West Indies Match three, Thur 5 Oct - England v Bangladesh Match four, Sat 7 Oct - Australia v winners match one Match five, Sun 9 Oct - Pakistan v winners match two Match six, Mon 9 Oct - New Zealand v Zimbabwe Match seven, Tues 10 Oct - South Africa v winners match three Match eight, Wed 11 Oct - Semi-final, winner match five v winner match six Thur, 12 Oct - reserve day Match nine, Fri 13 Oct - Semi-final, winner match four v winner match seven Sat 14 Oct - reserve day Match 10, Sun 15 Oct - Final, winner match eight v winner match nine. Mon 16 Oct - Reserve day for final

PAKISTAN TOUR

16 Oct - Leave for Karachi 20 - One-day warm-up match, National Stadium, Karachi 22 - One-day warm-up match, National Stadium, Karachi 24 - First one day international, National Stadium, Karachi: Pakistan v England (England Test players arrive in Lahore) 27 - Second one day international, Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore: Pakistan v England 29 - Third one day international, Pindi Stadium, Rawalpindi: Pakistan v England 1-4 Nov: Four-day match, Pindi Stadium, Rawalpindi 8-11 - Four-day match, Pindi Stadium, Rawalpindi 15-19 - First Test, Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore: Pakistan v England 23-25 - Three-day match, Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore 29 Nov-3 Dec - Second Test, Iqbal Stadium, Faisalabad: Pakistan v England 7-11 - Third Test, National Stadium, Karachi: Pakistan v England 12 - England return to UK

SRI LANKA TOUR

30 Jan - Leave for Colombo 5-6 - Two-day practice match, De Zoysa Park, Moratuwa 8-11 - Four-day match v Board President's XI, Colombo 15-18 - Four-day match v Board President's XI, Matara 22-26 - First Test, Galle: Sri Lanka v England 27 - Travel/rest 1-3 Mar - Three-day game v Board's Academy XI, Kurunegala 7-11 - Second Test, Kandy: Sri Lanka v England 15-19 - Third Test, Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo: Sri Lanka v England 20 - England Test players return to UK/one-day squad rest and practice 21 - One-day warm-up match v President's XI, Colombo 23 - First one-day international, Premadasa Stadium, Colombo: Sri Lanka v England 25 - Second one-day international, Premadasa Stadium, Colombo. Sri Lanka v England 27 - Third one-day international, Singhalese Sports Club, Colombo: Sri Lanka v England 28 - England team return to UK

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