Fraser joins the England specialists

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The specialisation of English cricket was begun at Lord's yesterday when David Graveney announced three squads to go to three different destinations. But if some names are common to two of the three teams selected, the common thread linking them is the one hoping to haul English cricket back to the top of the pile by the start of the 21st century.

In all, 36 players will find themselves representing their country at senior level this winter. Of those, perhaps the most surprising - though not necessarily the most contentious - is Angus Fraser, who won one of the two remaining pace bowling places up for grabs in front of Dominic Cork and Chris Lewis.

The 32-year-old Middlesex seam bowler, who played his last Test in Cape Town 18 months ago, joins the 22-year-old Essex pace bowler Ashley Cowan for the West Indies tour next January. Although he is keen to dispel the implications, Fraser's presence is bound to be seen as the old warhorse brought along to educate the colt.

It is a relationship Graveney more or less confirmed, saying that the introduction of Cowan more or less demanded the presence of a rounded (in the cricketing sense) senior figure like Fraser, who has, according to those who have seen him recently, been bowling far better than his 44 wickets at 29.11 would suggest.

For Cowan, known to his Essex team-mates as Dik-dik, on account of his strange ruminant-like gait, the selection caps a memorable few days. With Mark Ilott injured for much of the summer, Cowan, in his first full season for the county, has had to carry the Essex attack. But for a sore shoulder, he has coped manfully and his 3 for 29 in last Sunday's NatWest final was, as Graveney put it, "simply the icing on the cake''.

With Darren Gough, Andy Caddick and Dean Headley likely to start off as the trio of choice, it meant there was no place for Cork or Devon Malcolm, who has pledged he will stay fit during the winter should injury strike those on the frontline.

Not so long ago it was Cork who was the premier bowler around which the attack was built, and yesterday Graveney was quick to acknowledge that a fit Cork would undeniably be an asset to England.

Unhappily it is a situation that has altered alarmingly, with both injury and disenchantment virtually bringing his and Derbyshire's season to a standstill. In the circumstances, the selectors felt he needed to be physically and temperamentally rehabilitated in England and not on the A tour to Kenya and Sri Lanka.

The only other selection for the Caribbean that would have occupied much time was that of Mark Butcher, Surrey's left-handed opening batsman. However, he is not guaranteed a place in the Test side. As David Graveney pointed out, Atherton and Stewart scored almost a 1,000 runs at an average of over 50 apiece opening the innings together in the Caribbean four years ago. Figures like that are difficult to argue with and Jack Russell may yet find himself back in favour with the gloves.

With the selectors keen to promote continuity, Butcher, who played in all but one of the six Test matches against Australia, got the nod in front of Nick Knight and Steve James, who instead find themselves being consoled as captain and vice-captain respectively of the A tour, though Knight, along with his Warwickshire team-mates Dougie Brown and Ashley Giles, will also tour Sharjah under Adam Hollioake.

That appointment means that Hollioake senior has more or less been put in charge of England's bid to win the 1999 World Cup, for which Sharjah is seen as an important stepping stone. Curiously, he will not go as vice- captain to the West Indies where Nasser Hussain retains the role as Atherton's deputy.

For Hollioake junior, a pause from the fairytale chain of events. Potential can be a volatile thing and the selection panel clearly felt that the advancement of Ben Hollioake would be better served in Sharjah and Sri Lanka, than in Bridgetown or Port of Spain, where the 12th man's role as glorified waiter could well have quenched his teen spirit.

With the emphasis of the A team being on youth - Hollioake is joined by several of his under-19 colleagues like Andrew Flintoff, and David Sales, as well as current Youth World Cup players Owais Shah and Essex's Jonathan Powell - English cricket is at last getting the message that the deep end is a good place to learn and be learned about.

The players in all three squads plus the management will congregate in Lanzarote for a week from 3 to 10 November where they will work on fitness and those all-important bonding sessions. If England's cricket is to go forward, it must surely unstick itself first. Frolicking in the Canary Islands is all very well, but it is unlikely to be much help when Curtly Ambrose has got his tail up at the Kensington Oval and 10,000 Bajans are screaming for him to let some blood.

Dominic Cork gained some consolation for his omission from the England squad by being named as Derbyshire captain for next season.

England squad to tour West Indies

M A Atherton (Lancs) Capt, age 29, caps 73

N Hussain (Essex)

Vice-capt, 29-23

M A Butcher (Surrey)


A R Caddick (Somerset) 28-16

A P Cowan (Essex)


J P Crawley (Lancs)


R D B Croft (Glam)


A R C Fraser (Middx)


D Gough (Yorks)


D W Headley (Kent)


A J Hollioake (Surrey)


M R Ramprakash (Middx)


R C Russell (Gloucs, wkt) 34-49

A J Stewart (Surrey, wkt) 34-69

G P Thorpe (Surrey)


P C R Tufnell (Middx)


Tour manager: R Bennett.

Coach: D Lloyd.

England squad to visit Lahore and Sharjah

A J Hollioake (Surrey, capt)

A D Brown (Surrey)

D R Brown (Warwicks)

R D B Croft (Glam)

M A Ealham (Kent)

A F Giles (Warwicks)

D Gough (Yorks)

D W Headley (Kent)

G A Hick (Worcs)

B C Hollioake (Surrey)

N V Knight (Warwicks)

P J Martin (Lancs)

A J Stewart (wkt, Surrey)

G P Thorpe (Surrey)

Tour manager: D A Graveney.

Coach: D Lloyd.

England A Tour to Kenya and Sri Lanka

N V Knight (capt, Warks)

D A Cosker (Glam)

M A Ealham (Kent)

A Flintoff (Lancs)

A F Giles (Warwicks)

B C Hollioake (Surrey)

P M Hutchison (Yorks)

S P James (Glam)

D L Maddy (Leics)

D C Nash (Middx)

J Ormond (Leics)

J C Powell* (Essex)

C M W Read (Gloucs, wkt)

D J Sales (Northants)

O A Shah* (Middlesex)

C E W Silverwood (Yorks)

Tour manager: G A Gooch.

Coach: M W Gatting.

* will join after Youth World Cup