Gough spurred into record-breaking form

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The Independent Online
At the beginning of the Texaco series there was Adam, and then yesterday there was Ben. The Hollioake brothers have left English cricket supporters spoiled for choice when it comes to hero-worship.

The opening two one-day internationals were studded with elder brother Adam's marvellous half centuries. Yesterday baby brother Ben, 19, grabbed his chance and won the hearts of everyone. From 3.25 to 4.25pm it was happy hour at Lord's. A sell-out crowd of 28,000 experienced an intoxicating cocktail of strokeplay from Ben on his way to a stunning half-century on his international debut.

His bold, attacking approach mirrors a refreshing selectorial policy change in the international game. Just as the country shook off 18 years of Tory rule at the beginning of the month, so cricket has dusted off its short-sighted, conservative approach of ignoring talent because it is barely shaving and instead has opted for young bloods. The benefits are there for all to see, and they are not confined to the performances of the youngsters.

Their very presence seems to have galvanised some older heads in the side, not least Darren Gough. His 5 for 44 yesterday equalled his best return in the short game and also served to underline his quality and value to England. It is only the sixth time an England bowler has taken five wickets in a limited overs international.

Mike Hendrick was the first in 1980 against the Australians at The Oval, Vic Marks has managed the feat twice (1983 and 1984) - his 5 for 20 against New Zealand in Wellington remains the best by an English bowler - and Paul Jarvis once in 1993. Gough's first 5 for 44 was against Zimbabwe in Sydney, 1994. Gough's feat also eclipsed another record. Prior to yesterday the best bowling in a one-day international at Lord's was the 4 for 42, which Derek Pringle achieved against Pakistan in 1992.

According to seasoned observers, Gough, still only 26, is back to his best. He shows no sign of the fracture of his left foot which he suffered in Sydney two years ago. That had affected his form which was not helped by a back strain suffered later that year. After an unhappy tour to South Africa, Gough was overlooked for the two home series against India and Pakistan last summer.

But his rehabilitation was completed with a resoundingly good tour to Zimbabwe and New Zealand last winter and the old fire is back. He has bowled consistently well and with a great deal of hostile control throughout this three-match rubber. But his good form is not confined to one-day cricket, where he has been taking wickets regularly in the Sunday League and the Benson and Hedges Cup. His performances in the County Championship to date have been heartening, 13 wickets at 16.6. An Ashes series awaits. Gough looks ready for it.

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