Veteran Gough to learn one-day fate

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The Independent Online

Darren Gough will find out whether he has been forgiven for opting out of last winter's one-day tour of Pakistan when the England selectors today announce their squad for the coming NatWest series. England are scheduled to play a Twenty20 match and five one-dayers against Pakistan over the next three weeks and the possible selection of Gough is the most contentious decision the selectors have to make.

Gough, England's highest wicket-taker in one-day cricket, chose to spend the pre-Christmas period strutting his stuff in Shepherds Bush on BBC's Strictly Come Dancing rather than toiling in Lahore and Karachi. It was a move that won him few favours with the selectors. But England's abject bowling in the NatWest one-day series against Sri Lanka in June and July, when they conceded over 300 runs in three of the five games, has brought calls for Gough's return.

The 35-year-old has never been shy of blowing up his own wheels and he has spent a large part of the summer telling everyone how much England have missed him. England's young and inexperienced bowlers would benefit from Gough's guidance and his positive outlook on life, but his real aim is to play in the 2007 World Cup.

Yet despite all the positive talk, his powers on the field are fading. Gough was walloped around by the Australians last summer, and England would be better off giving the one-day caps they might give to him to an exciting young thruster like Stuart Broad.

The challenge for England though, after losing 5-0 to Sri Lanka, is combining the dual ambitions of winning matches and giving players experience. The performance of Jamie Dalrymple should encourage the selectors to look for youth.

Liam Plunkett is out with a side strain and England will wait for the results of a scan on Stephen Harmison's back before naming him in the squad. If he is fit he should play.

Possible squad: A J Strauss (capt), M E Trescothick, A N Cook, K P Pietersen, I R Bell, P D Collingwood, E C Joyce, C M W Read (wkt), J W M Dalrymple, A G R Loudon, S Mahmood, S C J Broad, T T Bresnan, S J Harmison, G Chapple.