Knight joins England's casualty list

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The Independent Online
Cricket

MARTIN JOHNSON

It is a fair old time since most people heard the buzz of a lawnmower this summer, but not too many days on the cricket field go by without the sound of another English digit snapping.

Nick Knight is the latest addition to England's casualty list, and the Warwickshire opening batsman will today discover whether a damaged left index finger rules him out of Thursday's final Test at The Oval.

Lancashire's Jason Gallian, whose own broken finger in the Third Test at Edgbaston allowed Knight to come into the side for the last two Tests, has been called into the squad as a stand-by replacement . England are already without Alec Stewart, Richard Illingworth (broken fingers), Robin Smith (fractured cheekbone) and Darren Gough (sore foot).

Knight was struck on the hand by Nottinghamshire's Andy Pick during Warwickshire's Sunday League game at Trent Bridge and, although a fracture has not been confirmed, the England chairman of selectors, Ray Illingworth, is not over-optimistic. "It looks like a nasty injury," Illingworth said, "and Nick is unlikely to be fit."

The 25-year-old Knight has spent an indecent amount of the summer inside various casualty rooms, having suffered concussion in June after colliding with a team-mate in the field, and he spent a night in hospital during the last Test at Trent Bridge after being hit on his unprotected head by a shot from Kenneth Benjamin, the West Indian tail-ender.

The Warwickshire batsman may now miss the chance to cement a place in this winter's senior tour party to South Africa, although his performances in his two Test matches do not make his probable absence an irretrievable blow.

There were a number of candidates to replace him, among them the Yorkshire captain, Martyn Moxon, who has been in fine form since returning from a broken finger of his own three weeks ago, and who is currently top of the first-class batting averages. During his side's win over Lancashire yesterday, Moxon also topped 2,000 runs in Roses matches.

David Byas, the Yorkshire No 3, was another contender, but Gallian, who played alongside Knight on the A tour to India last winter, was preferred. In his one and only Test, Gallian batted at No 6 and (with his finger then broken) No 7, but this time is the only logical choice to partner Michael Atherton.

This would mean England's 39th different opening partnership since the old firm of Geoff Boycott and Graham Gooch (now reunited in the world of hair transplants) went into liquidation. In fact, had he been in more consistent form, Gooch might conceivably have been recalled by now to assist in England's quest for their first major series victory at home for more than a decade.

If Gallian does play, it will at least mean him escaping from the list of one-cap wonders, and also give him a chance of improving on scores of 7 and 0 from a total of 22 balls. He was a touch unlucky to make his debut at Edgbaston, where the Test was played on something closer to a cabbage patch than a cricket pitch.

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