Tim De Lisle's column: Shoaib success should be a tonic for Tudor

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The Independent Online
THEY SAY one-day cricket does not linger in the memory, but the pleasure of going to South Africa against Pakistan last Saturday has stayed with me all week. It was like when the BBC turned Jane Austen's Persuasion into a single drama a couple of years ago - a condensed epic. And one of the great things about it was that each side fielded an out-and-out fast bowler.

To do a circuit of the ground while Shoaib Akhtar was in his first spell was to smell the excitement. The crowd were looking at the Speedster far more than the scoreboard, even though its late arrival has left it poorly displayed and, unfathomably, there is only one of it, so thousands of spectators cannot even see it. There was a cheer when Shoaib touched 90mph, another when he joined Javagal Srinath on 93, and a huge one when he hit a magical 95.

Shoaib ended up being blamed by Wasim Akram for Pakistan's narrow defeat, which was uncharacteristically harsh. He may have gone for 17 off an over, but so had the great Allan Donald earlier in the day. And whereas Donald could be held responsible for all 17 - and suffered the indignity of being swept for four by Moin Khan - Shoaib actually bowled rather well in his final spell. His slower ball repeatedly went past the bat of Lance Klusener, which is an achievement in itself, and his 17-run over included four leg byes and an edged boundary. Had Saeed Anwar clung on to that routine chance at the death, Shoaib would have been back on for the final over, with Klusener out of the way, and might even have snatched victory by one run.

As it was he merely took a couple of early wickets and struck visible fear into Hansie Cronje, one of the strongest characters in the game. Young, charismatic and unpredictable, but above all fast, Shoaib is a fantastic PR man for cricket. He is the sort of player England are crying out for. Yet if he was English, he probably would not have played in this World Cup.

When did you last see a bowler of raw pace wearing the naff mid-blue of England? We have a fine pace prospect of our own, Alex Tudor, aged only 21, and quick enough on his Test debut last winter to defeat both the Waugh twins. This week he destroyed Leicestershire, the county champions, on a Grace Road pitch that cannot have been too helpful because Surrey then scored 500. Has he played a single one-day international? No. Has he ever been mentioned in despatches by us cricket writers? No. Are we all mad? Quite possibly.

Before Tudor, the last man to bowl frighteningly fast for England was Devon Malcolm. In eight years as a Test cricketer, he was granted 10 one- day internationals. He did quite well, taking 16 wickets - and one and a half per game is the benchmark for the top bowlers.

Another of my small store of one-day memories is a day at The Oval in May 1990 when Malcolm made his debut against New Zealand, opened the bowling and delivered 29 dot balls in succession. He finished with figures of 11-5-19-2 and the Man-of-the-Match award. In his second appearance, a couple of months later, he clean-bowled Sachin Tendulkar - but conceded 57, and was dropped. As recently as last Sunday, he won a one-day match for Northamptonshire.

Generations of selectors have taken the view that you cannot afford bowlers of high pace. During this World Cup, the opposite has been closer to the truth; you cannot afford to leave out your wicket-takers. Bowlers who seemed ideally designed for the English spring, such as Adam Dale, Paul Reiffel, Ian Austin and Angus Fraser, have barely troubled the placard- wavers. Shaun Pollock has bowled beautiful fast-medium and taken only four wickets. Allan Donald has been more erratic but also far more effective, with 12 wickets.

The selectors always had two excuses to leave out Malcolm - his comical batting and clueless fielding. Neither of these applies to Tudor, who hits the ball cleanly at No 9 and picks it up equally well at sweeper or deep square. Whether he would make England's best one-day XI right away is arguable, with Darren Gough, Alan Mullally and Mark Ealham all rated in the top 13 in the world. But the lessons of this World Cup are that defensiveness will not do any more, and pace has its place. England owe it to Malcolm, and to their long-suffering supporters, to get Tudor into their next one-day squad.

Tim de Lisle is editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly

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