England delay Test squad after injuries

By Angus Fraser
Friday 20 December 2013 03:00
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England's selectors yesterday took the unfamiliar step of delaying the announcement of their Test squad by two days until tomorrow morning.

The names in the 13-man party to play India at Lord's next week were expected to be revealed yesterday, but due to an injury list that is almost reaching crisis point, the selectors have decided to make the most of the extra time that is available to consider their options.

Even the 13 they eventually reveal tomorrow morning could change, if certain players fail to prove their fitness over the weekend. The biggest blow to the England captain, Nasser Hussain, and the coach, Duncan Fletcher, as they attempt to put together a plan to win this four-match series, will be the loss of their opening batsman Marcus Trescothick. What will be particularly disconcerting is that the batting has been the strongest and most consistent part of England's cricket this summer, and the loss of their leading player, with a badly fractured left thumb, will mean that even this area now needs attention.

There are two other batsmen who will need monitoring this weekend, Mark Butcher, who is playing his first game after knee surgery, and Graham Thorpe who has not played since he was originally left out of England's one-day side with a sore ankle. Both, however, expect to be fit.

One man's loss though, is another man's gain, and the batsman who gets an opportunity, because of Trescothick's misfortune will, like Alec Stewart at the start of the season – when he replaced James Foster, who had broken his arm – attempt to grab it with both hands.

John Crawley, Mark Ramprakash, Ian Bell, Robert Key and Andrew Strauss, will all be considered by the selectors, and each will be aware that selection will offer them a chance to secure a place on the ultimate trip for an English cricketer, an Ashes tour to Australia.

Even at full strength, Hussain and Fletcher would have been worried about how England's bowlers would fare against a batting line-up as talented and delicious as India's. But with Andrew Caddick already ruled out of the first Test with a rib injury, Darren Gough, yet to prove he is fully fit despite successfully coming through the recent one-day series, and Alex Tudor, England's man of the match in their last Test, complaining about sore shins, the omens are not good.

Out of Gough and Tudor, the Yorkshireman is the likelier to play because Tudor, even though he continues to impress each time he plays, is yet truly to convince England's management that he can tough it out through heavy international schedules.

The failure of either of these to prove their fitness would give the selectors another dilemma. Do they go back to Derbyshire's Dominic Cork or go for the raw, wild but frighteningly fast bowling talent of Glamorgan's Simon Jones?

Hussain, who in the end has the final say, will push for Crawley and Cork, but it would be wise to remember what happened last Saturday at Lord's, when a 20-year-old and a 21-year-old left everyone awe-inspired. It would be stirring to see two young England players given the chance to perform as admirably.

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