Wright steps up after England cut Mustard

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The Independent Online

Luke Wright is set to replace Phil Mustard as England's destructive top-order batsman in the Twenty20 and five match one-day series against New Zealand that starts in two weeks' time. Wright opened the batting for England in Twenty20 cricket during the winter and he is now expected to be given the extra responsibility of giving his side the positive start it wants, and needs, while fielding restrictions are in place at the start of one-day matches.

The selectors decision to pick Tim Ambrose, England's Test wicket-keeper, ahead of Mustard, who scored 293 runs at an average of 24.4 in 12 limited over games during the winter, created the opportunity for Wright, a bright and extremely talented all-rounder. The 23-year-old has made an encouraging start in international cricket, scoring a half century on his one-day debut against India at The Oval in September and bowling an excellent final over to gain England an unexpected tie in a high pressure situation in New Zealand in the spring.

Since Marcus Trescothick withdrew from international cricket, England have struggled to find a batsman possessing the power and range of stroke to give them the explosive start they require. Matt Prior and Mustard have previously been given the opportunity but neither has been able to take it. Wright could be the man. He has performed the role for Sussex in all forms of limited-over cricket and had success, and New Zealand are fully aware of his potential – he scored a destructive hundred against the tourists at the Rose Bowl for the England Lions prior to the first Test.

The selection of Ambrose highlights the selectors' desire for continuity. It will have acted as a fillip for the 25-year-old too. Ambrose has not had a very good start to the summer, scoring nought and three in his two Test innings to date. The failures have resulted in his place in the Test team being questioned, with Prior, his former team-mate at Sussex, being seen as a potential replacement.

"Tim Ambrose has already shown that he has the temperament and ability required to succeed in Test cricket and his selection reflects our desire to use the same wicketkeeper in both the long and short form of the game," said Geoff Miller, the national selector. "Phil Mustard will, of course, be disappointed not to have been selected on this occasion but he remains a player of terrific potential and we will continue to monitor his potential closely.

"We're aware that we need to identify a player who can take over the opener's role from Phil and play in a positive manner at the start of the innings. We do have a number of options available within the squad and we will make a final decision as to who will fulfil this role once we have had further discussions with the captain and coach prior to the series."

It was as an opener in one-day cricket that Ambrose broke in to the Sussex first team, but since his move to Warwickshire he has batted in the middle order. It is a challenge he enjoys.

"My goal at the start of the summer was to play in both formats so this is a good opportunity to establish myself," Ambrose said. "I've been playing for the last three or four years in the middle order and trying to learn how to play that style of game. I enjoy batting in that area of the innings. I think it is the toughest role to play in one-day cricket and it's a great challenge, but if it comes off towards the end of the innings whether setting up [a total] or chasing, it's a great feeling."

Andrew Flintoff could be fit for England's later one-day matches against New Zealand in three weeks' time but the selectors do not want to rush his return. "Andrew is still recovering from a side strain and we would prefer to wait until he is 100 per cent fit before considering him for selection," Miller said. "We will be guided by the England medical team as to when the best time would be for him to return to international cricket. We are optimistic that he will be available for selection later in the summer."

With the one-day side picked, the selectors will now turn their attention to the side for next week's third Test against New Zealand at Trent Bridge. The remarkable victory at Old Trafford eased the pressure to alter the middle order and no changes are expected. But Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell need to perform. Flintoff should be fit for the first Test against South Africa in July and it could be one of them that makes way.

England one-day squad to face New Zealand

*squad

P D Collingwood (Durham, capt) Age 32 Caps 141

A N Cook (Essex) 23, 21

T R Ambrose (Warwickshire, wkt) 25, 0

I R Bell (Warwickshire) 26, 64

K P Pietersen (Hampshire) 25, 69

O A Shah (Middlesex) 29, 35

L J Wright (Sussex) 23, 5

R S Bopara (Essex) 23, 21

A D Mascarenhas (Hampshire) 30, 10

S C J Broad (Nottinghamshire) 21, 26

R J Sidebottom (Nottinghamshire) 30, 13

J M Anderson (Lancashire) 25, 86

G P Swann (Nottinghamshire) 29, 7

C T Tremlett (Hampshire) 26, 8

*ONE-DAY ITINERARY v NEW ZEALANDTwenty20: 13 June at Old TraffordODIs: 5 June at Riverside 18 June at Edgbaston 21 June at Bristol 25 June at The Oval 28 June at Lord's

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