England have called on the services of the veteran Surrey swing bowler Martin Bicknell and the young Worcestershire seamer Kabir Ali to bolster their depleted fast-bowling attack for Thursday's fourth Test against South Africa at Headingley. Ali and the 34-year-old Bicknell have been drafted into England's squad as replacements for Glen Chapple, who aggravated a long-standing injury playing for Lancashire, and as cover for Stephen Harmison, who strained a calf during England's thrilling victory at Trent Bridge yesterday.
However, Chapple and Harmison are just two players on an ever-growing injury list that includes Andrew Caddick, Simon Jones, Matthew Hoggard, Richard Johnson, James Ormond and Alex Tudor.
"I was pretty stunned," said Bicknell, who played the last of his two Test matches against Australia 10 years ago. "At first I thought someone was having a laugh. I know there are a few injuries around, but this year my focus has been on Surrey and I have not really given England a thought. But if I get my chance I won't let anyone down. I am very consistent, swing the ball both ways and get good players out."
David Graveney, England's chairman of selectors, admitted that Bicknell was a horses-for-courses pick on the seamer-friendly Headingley pitch. "Martin is a very experienced performer who is unlucky not to have been selected before. We are looking for a bowler who hits an English seamer's length at Headingley and he fits the bill."
Bicknell, one of the county game's best bowlers in the last 15 years, made his England debut at Headingley in 1993. He took 1 for 155.
ENGLAND SQUAD (for fourth Test at Headingley, starting Thursday): M P Vaughan (Yorkshire, capt); M E Trescothick (Somerset); M A Butcher (Surrey); N Hussain (Essex); E T Smith (Kent); A J Stewart (Surrey, wkt); A Flintoff (Lancashire); A F Giles (Warwickshire); Kabir Ali (Worcestershire); S J Harmison (Durham); J M Anderson (Lancashire); R J Kirtley (Sussex); M Bicknell (Surrey).