Knight's finger the only headache

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The Independent Online
Cricket Correspondent

It is not often that England's selectors find themselves contemplating the Hock rather than the hemlock but, after England's powerful win at Edgbaston, that is precisely what they would have been doing had tonight's pre-selection dinner actually taken place.

Instead, with none of the five selectors being within 100 miles of the other - Graham Gooch in Chelmsford is at least five hours drive from Michael Atherton in Chester-le-Street - they will have to content themselves with picking the team for Lord's next Thursday by mobile phone. As things went so well at Edgbaston, the only thing which might run up a decent sized bill is an injury to Nick Knight.

Considering Edgbaston is his home ground, it was ironic that Knight broke the little finger of his right hand while batting there. It is the latest frustration in a career that has so far failed to find cohesion. Knight, eager for some continuity, claims he will be fit, though Raymond Illingworth is likely to have either Yorkshire's David Byas or Alec Stewart on standby.

The first-Test pitch will have made it difficult to assess just how well some of the bowlers performed, too. Peter Martin wrongly missed out to Min Patel, but Patel, having played, ought to be retained for Lord's despite the ease with which India's batsmen play spin.

By debut standards, Alan Mullally also had a good game. His bounce and pace are handy, though a lack of in-swing meant his line at times verged on the negative. His place is safe for the moment, but he will be pushed by a resurgent Darren Gough, eager to return to the limelight, and bowling well.

Ronnie Irani was another whose first taste of Test cricket has been pleasant, and. his strident 34 in as many balls was crucial in kick-starting the England innings. However, his bowling was friendlier than a game-show host's patter, and his progress as an all-rounder will depend on how much England feel they need his bowling, and whether or not he can make the necessary improvements.

He may of course retain his position solely as a batsman, despite Illingworth's stated preference for a suitable all-rounder at No 6 and, should Illingworth's view hold sway, he may find himself competing later in the summer with Craig White and Adam Hollioake.

Either way, Irani will play at Lord's, which means further ignominy for John Crawley, who has a strained hamstring. He has incurred more than his fair share of bad luck, and there is a growing feeling that he may be one of those unfortunates destined to leave the game with their talents unfulfilled. Fortunately for Crawley, both youth and talent are firmly on his side.

If he needs to take succour from anywhere, he should look no further than Chris Lewis and Nasser Hussain. A year ago both were pondering uncertain futures. Barring injury, they can both ink the remainder of the summer's Tests into their diaries.

ENGLAND Probable squad: Atherton, Knight or Stewart, Hussain, Thorpe, Hick, Irani, Russell, Lewis, Cork, Patel, Mullally, Martin.

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