Russell on stand-by as captain

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Jack Russell, the Gloucestershire captain, is on stand-by to captain England in the fifth Cornhill Test match at Trent Bridge against the West Indies, which starts today.

Mike Atherton, the captain, and Graeme Hick have both aggravated back injuries and there are slight doubts as to whether they will be fit to play. As a precautionary measure England yesterday sent for David Byas, the Yorkshire opening batsman.

While it seems highly unlikely that Atherton would miss the game, Ray Illingworth, the England chairman of selectors, said that if he was forced to drop out the captaincy would be handed to Russell, who was recalled to the team only two weeks ago.

With Robin Smith already out for the rest of the series after sustaining a fractured cheekbone in the Old Trafford Test, England can ill afford to have their batting line-up further depleted. Without Atherton and Hick, Russell would captain a side boasting just 105 caps - 83 of them owned by himself, Angus Fraser and Graham Thorpe.

Not surprisingly, Illingworth had to give the replacement captain question a few moments' thought, so drastically has England's squad changed in recent weeks following one injury after another.

However, once he had nominated Russell as the stand-by England captain, Illingworth said: "I would have no worries about Jack skippering the side. He's an experienced cricketer and has done a good job leading Gloucestershire this season."

Paul Nixon, the England A wicketkeeper, has been fined and severely reprimanded by his county, Leicestershire, for a breach of discipline.

Nixon was reported by umpires John Hampshire and Peter Wight for a breach of discipline on the field in Leicestershire's recent game against Sussex at Hove.

Nixon was a member of the successful England A tour to India in the winter, but he missed the start of this season after breaking a finger playing for an England A side against Warwickshire in a curtain-raiser.

Martin Johnson, page 26