Why it's vital to coax the best from Tudor and White

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The Independent Online

All-rounders are the gold nuggets of Test cricket, for they are the players who give a side the balance which is always so important. They usually bat at six or seven and either keep wicket, like Adam Gilchrist or Alec Stewart, or complement the attack, the role allotted to Craig White and Alex Tudor.

Stewart's waning powers with the bat have turned him into a wicket-keeper who can make runs, but no longer with the consistency of a genuine all-rounder. As a result, England's need for another high-class dual-purpose cricketer is urgent.

Last winter in Pakistan and Sri Lanka it began to look as if White would fit the bill. In the last couple of seasons his pace had increased by a yard and a half and he had become probably the quickest bowler in the side, ahead even of Darren Gough.

He was also emerging as a more- than-competent batsman at No 7, failing by only seven runs to reach 100 in the First Test in Lahore. He also made useful contributions in the last two matches and finished with an average of 59.33 which was only bettered by Michael Atherton.

His figures were not so impressive in Sri Lanka, although he still made useful runs. Then, at the start of this English season, he injured his back and was unable to play in either of the two Test matches against Pakistan in May.

He returned to the fold for the First Test against Australia at Edgbaston, and although he has held his place since, neither his batting nor his bowling have lived up to the promise of the winter. The clear inference with his bowling is that his back is still in some way restricting him.

His confidence has been affected and this has been most disappointingly reflected in his batting too. He is now looking overplaced at No 7, and is either in need of more medical assistance or a serious rehabilitation course in county cricket. His winter's form surely cannot have disappeared like a mirage, and every effort must be made to help him recover it.

Because of White's poor showing, the emergence of Tudor is doubly welcome, especially at Trent Bridge, where he has given every indication of badly wanting to be a member of the England side. This has not always been so obviously the case since he first played so promisingly for England against Australia in Perth back in 1998-1999.

There were dark mutterings about a mild side strain in the two days before this Test began. Tudor will surely have been left in no doubt that if he was again prepared to give in to a niggle he would be returned to county cricket without much hope of recall.

At last he has responded as he should have done when he gave into that minor injury which he suffered playing in an al fresco football game in Melbourne on Christmas Day in 1998. He was the bowler on Friday who, sending the ball down at a lively fast-medium, showed his senior colleagues the length and line they should have been bowling in the first innings at Trent Bridge.

His reward was his best Test figures of 5 for 44, and he was most impressive. His batting has not blossomed as we might have hoped in this match, although he made that 99 not out in his last Test match, against New Zealand at Edgbaston in 1999, and so the evidence is there that he can do an important job.

The England management and their Surrey counterparts have a duty to see that Tudor's mindset does not lurch back into its bad old habits. He is only 23 and could easily develop into the all-rounder England so badly need. If White can also hit his straps it would be too good to be true.

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