Symonds resplendent in rescue

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reports from Bristol

India 406 Gloucestershire 251-4

Andrew Symonds, the 20-year-old Birmingham-born Queenslander, revived the controversy surrounding his national Test ambitions by scoring a cracking century against India yesterday. With an England Texaco squad due to be announced next Sunday, Symonds' performance must now put him among the candidates.

Last summer Symonds refused an England A tour and returned to Australia, the land of his upbringing, in the hope of winning recognition in Brisbane. He failed to make the State side and returned to sign a new contract for Gloucestershire. That is supposed to confirm his eligibility for England although, perhaps significantly, Symonds has not admitted this publicly. Privately he is said to regard himself as 100 per cent Aussie.

Yet yesterday he responded to crisis in a manner that would have appealed to the England chairman, Ray Illingworth, who has been noticeably unenthusiastic about suggestions that Symonds should be included in the reckoning again.

Gloucestershire were 38 for 3, facing 407, their former professional, and India's spearhead, Javagal Srinath, having ripped open the innings with a spell of three for nine in 10 balls.

Symonds square-cut his first ball from Srinath to the boundary. Despite having Dominic Hewson, a 21-year-old former Cheltenham College pupil (known in the dressing-room as "Poppadom") making his first-class debut, as his partner, Symonds transformed the Gloucestershire innings from the ramshackle to the resplendent with a few dazzling strokes.

He advanced to drive the spinner Sunil Joshi and when Srinath returned for his second spell he pulled his first ball through midwicket for four, then repeated the shot before square cutting him for four. Srinath responded with short-pitched bowling that brought a warning from umpire Alan Whitehead.

With Hewson gaining enough confidence to lift Anil Kumble into the outfield, the pair added 140 in 29 overs before Hewson was bowled by Kumble's yorker; his maiden half-century had taken almost two hours but had been scored against two world-class bowlers.

Symonds refused to slacken the pace - his 50 came off 56 balls with 10 fours - until he reached the nineties when, with the first century of the season in sight, he first began to measure his strokes instead of, as it seems, making the instinctive, tigerish response to each ball. It arrived at 200 for 4, off 111 balls, including a straight six off Joshi and 16 boundaries.

He added another straight six off Joshi, as he took the county past the danger of a follow-on, batting with an increasing serenity and maturity to finish unbeaten on 120.

India's manager, Sandeep Patil, said of Symonds: "He hammered us when he toured India with Australia Under-19. He's a very exciting and talented player and although it's not for me to say who England should pick I would welcome him to international cricket."

The England selector, David Graveney, who is also the general secretary of the Cricketers' Association, would have to explain such a selection to his members at a time when a number of young untried English players are worthy candidates.