The mildly surprising news is that Jason Gallian, the Lancashire opener, has been summoned to replace the injured John Crawley. The more surprising news is that Crawley will remain on the tour, even though his hamstring is torn. The astonishing news is that Gallian has been virtually guaranteed a place in the last two Tests.
Gallian, one of several batsmen in form on the England A tour of Pakistan, was woken in his Peshawar hotel room to be told that he had been preferred to Nick Knight, the Warwickshire opener. Their captain, Nasser Hussain, was apparently ruled out because he bats in the middle order - although he has made runs for England A at No 3, the position Crawley had just been given, and that which has become a thorn in the senior side.
Gallian was picked after discussions between the England manager, Ray Illingworth, the captain, Mike Atherton, and the A team manager, John Emburey. Illingworth confirmed that Knight had been considered. "But my feeling was that Gallian was the one, and Emburey said he was playing the better.
"Jason is coming to play Test cricket," Illingworth added, "and provided we continue to play six batsmen, he will be there. We'll have three openers [Atherton, Gallian and Alec Stewart] to fill the top three spots because our problems have been at the top."The decision is another blow to Mark Ramprakash, who was dropped as England's No 3 for this match after three failures. Gallian's call-up is a tacit admission that England were wrong to bring only two openers here. By selecting three at once (with Stewart the most likely candidate for the poisoned chalice), Illingworth is trying to solve the No3 problem in the way Australia did in 1989
Gallian, 24, was born in Sydney and captained Australia's Under-19s before qualifying for England while studying, and playing, at Oxford University. He made his England debut against West Indies at Edgbaston in July, batting at No 6, making 7 and 0 and breaking a finger. He opened in the final test with Atherton, and made 0 and 25.
He will go straight into the match against a South African students' XI at Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday even though he only arrives on Tuesday. Gallian said he was "in a daze" yesterday, having expected to spend Christmas with his girlfriend and her family in Suffolk. "I was convinced I was going to experience my first white Christmas, but I don't think it'll be snowing too much in South Africa." The way this tour is going, it is eminently possible.
l There were reports last night that the South African pace bowler Craig Matthews had been captured by television cameras on Friday attempting to lift the seam of the ball.
Derek Pringle, page 30Reuse content