If it is bad luck for Phil Neale, at least it is an indication that there is now genuine competition for management places

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The sun keeps shining, England have a chance of winning a series against the West Indies, the selectors, it seems, cannot pick a player who fails and Northamptonshire are at home in the NatWest semi-finals.

Well, all true apart from the last bit, to which I will return. But the statistical improbability of my county being drawn away for an eighth successive one-day semi-final next week aside, what an excellent summer.

Looking further ahead, though, one of the most positive aspects emerging from the season so far has been Raymond Illingworth's effort to achieve some continuity and to plan ahead. In the past, little thought has been given to the future. A new chairman of selectors usually meant a new captain and therefore new policies.

Last week's announcement that John Emburey will take the A team to Pakistan, that John Barclay will act as tour manager with the full Test side in South Africa - and be joined for some of the time by this summer's coaches, John Edrich and Peter Lever - and that David Lloyd will nurse the Under- 19s in Zimbabwe, suggests that real thought is being put into the years ahead.

Although Emburey would not have been my choice to go to Pakistan (Lloyd shaded it for me), I still support the thinking behind his appointment and see no reason why he should not take over from Illingworth in time. It is important that those who are asked to look after the emerging Test players should have the stature and experience of playing at the highest level and also be in touch with those whom they are asked to look after.

You can make an exception in some cases but, as a rule of thumb, tour managers and selectors at international level must have experienced the mental pressures of playing cricket for their country if they are to identify and help today's talent.

Barclay's appointment suggests he has taken most of the credit for the successful A tour to India last winter, a view supported by Emburey's appointment ahead of Phil Neale, who was the other half of the A team's management.

'Trout' is very different to Illingworth. As captain of Sussex he would take a risk to win a game, whereas Illingworth never chanced anything if defeat remained a prospect, however remote. Nevertheless, they should knit together into a good team, with Illingworth continuing to dominate as he has this summer and John supporting. From my personal experiences on a 'Gin and Tonic' venture with him to the Leeward Islands, John is a great tourist. I can almost hear him rousing the spirits of the squad already with a "what a great place South Africa is to play cricket".

If it is bad luck for Phil Neale, at least his disappointment is an indication that there is genuine competition now within the England set- up for the tour management places. In the long run, this could be as beneficial as having a battle for a slot in the Test side itself.

There does not seem to be any room for Phil at the moment. I can't think of a job they could give him that supports the suggestion that he will not be overlooked in the future. But with Warwickshire having a good season under his management, those entrusted with duties this winter know there is an alternative whose future inclusion would not disrupt greatly the process of maintaining continuity. Illingworth is looking to get the best out of the on and off-field teams.

There are possibilities of a bright future then for England. I wonder if it also holds any prospect of Northamptonshire landing a home tie at the semi-final stage of a one-day competition? The draw pairing us with Yorkshire at Headingley defied probability.

There has always been idle chat about warm and cold or sticky and shiny balls being used for the draw. Eight in a row! It is a wonder there are bookmakers.

It is true that we cricketers prefer continuity, but this is taking it a bit far!

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