Gough under threat as Emburey eases back


Darren Gough, England's dazzler six months ago, is likely to be dropped from the team for the fourth Test starting at Old Trafford on Thursday. That must be the conclusion to be drawn from the choice of two all-rounders, Mike Watkinson and Craig White, both of whom bowl seam, and that of the veteran off- spinner John Emburey in the 13-man squad.

There seems little point in calling up all three of the above unless the intention is to play them. If that happens one bowler will have to go and the prime candidate, sadly for the box office and the fan club, is The Dazzler. The final decision will not be made until the covers come off on Thursday morning and Gough's place will be saved only if, after all, the selectors conclude there is no possibility of a spinner's gaining any purchase.

One of Raymond Illingworth's greatest pleasures, almost as satisfying as winning a match, is that of wrong-footing the pundits. The chairman did it for the first Test with Richard Illingworth; he did it for the third Test with Jason Gallian; and he did it again yesterday by naming Emburey.

The other 12 players in the squad had all been mentioned somewhere: Jack Russell returning as wicketkeeper; Nick Knight opening the innings; White returning to compete for the all-rounder's place; and Watkinson to play on his home ground. Emburey, who last played two years ago, was the shaker.

Emburey should not have been a surprise. Cricket conversation everywhere has revolved around his excellent form, his experience, his nous; there was a latent suspicion that sooner or later "Ernie" would be in the reckoning. His selection for Manchester suggests that England are expecting the pitch to turn, and if Emburey, Watkinson and Graeme Hick all play then Mike Atherton will have three contrasting off-spinners with which to tax West Indies' left-handers.

Knight, a left-hander, is to open with Atherton. He is, as he says, "more of a fighter than a strokeplayer. I'm looking forward to getting stuck in". Robin Smith is moving up to No 3, Hick dropping to five. If White enters at six and Watkinson at seven, Dominic Cork at eight and Russell at nine that leaves two places.

Emburey takes one and Gus Fraser is certain to be preferred to Gough in English conditions. Gough and John Crawley seem to be the pair most likely to be rejoining their counties on Thursday morning. Crawley, it seems, has been passed over as an opener and remains as the stand-by for a middle-order place, probably Hick's if there should be another failure.

Gough watchers would not be too amazed at his exclusion. Since his return home from the winter tour with a foot injury this ebullient Yorkshireman has struggled to find the magic that made him such a success in Australia. Neither with bat nor ball has he been especially effective for county or country; the versatility in his bowling, that surprised Australia, seems to have deserted him. He can still produce the quick ball but Test match batsmen are rarely defeated by speed alone if the bounce is true and the ball does not deviate. On an Edgbaston pitch that made Courtney Walsh and Ian Bishop irresistible, Gough was a nonentity.

He might have saved his place had he been able to contribute more runs but again, his touch seems to have gone. He now appears to lack that judgement that enabled him to pick the right ball to hit.

If Gough were to bowl out Durham at Harrogate today he would at least reassure the selectors that he can still win matches. Until then he may leave the immediate Test match planning and the vacancy he leaves gives England a possible batting order in which only Fraser could be classed a rabbit.

As both Illingworth and Atherton have pointed out repeatedly, the team's current weakness is the inability to build a decent total in the first innings. With Russell, who is averaging 47, at nine this team should at least have a stiffened tail. Fraser and Cork would then presumably take the new ball with Watkinson, White, Emburey and possibly Hick to follow.

If that order barely passes muster for a Test match attack, unless the pitch is turning, then remember that the priority in this contest is not to lose. England dare not go 3-1 down with two matches left. The minimal objective must be to draw this match and then prepare for a counter-attack at Trent Bridge and at The Oval where, presumably, Devon Malcolm will be wound up and switched on.

ENGLAND SQUAD (fourth Test v West Indies, Old Trafford, Thursday): M A Atherton (Lancashire, capt) age 27, Tests 48; N V Knight (Warwickshire) 25, 0; G A Hick (Worcestershire) 29, 35; G P Thorpe (Surrey) 25, 18; R A Smith (Hampshire) 31, 56; J P Crawley (Lancashire) 23, 6; C White (Yorkshire) 25, 4; M Watkinson (Lancashire) 33, 0; D G Cork (Derbyshire) 23, 2; R C Russell (Gloucestershire, wkt) 31, 36; D Gough (Yorkshire) 24, 10; J E Emburey (Middlesex) 42, 63; A R C Fraser (Middlesex) 29, 26.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Life and Style
Duchess of Cambridge standswith officials outside of the former wartime spy centre in Bletchley Park
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'