England learning to live without Caddick and Gough

Angus Fraser
Wednesday 19 June 2002 00:00
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Nasser Hussain was lavish in the praise he gave to his victorious side on Monday evening, and quite rightly so. Not only did England's spirited, hard-working and disciplined performance at Old Trafford, deservedly win them a Test match, but in beating Sri Lanka 2-0 in the series, they ended the unenviable run of failing to win any of their last four series.

However, of all the satisfying things to come out of this game, and the three-match series in general, it will have been the performance of Hussain's fast bowlers that will have given him and his close ally, the England coach Duncan Fletcher, most pleasure.

Scoring totals of 500-plus for three Test innings in a row, a feat never achieved before by England, was a triumph in itself, but one has to take into account the quality of the bowling faced and the nature of the pitches played on. With a half-fit Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lanka have a modest bowling attack and the pitches used were good for batting.

Marcus Trescothick and Mark Butcher, who won England's player of the series award, were the two batsmen to feast most on the ordinary fare dished up by the tourists. Their efforts have produced significant moves up the batting world rankings and in Trescothick England at last have a batsman in the top 10. His 354 runs have moved him up 18 places to ninth.

Butcher has also had an excellent summer and will be hoping to make further strides up the rankings after his knee operation tomorrow. The Surrey left-hander shot up 15 places after his two centuries and a 94 and is now ranked 23rd.

The real feat, though, and the reason for England's comfortable victory, was bowling out such a gifted batting line-up four times for 308 or less on such batsman-friendly surfaces. To do this twice at Old Trafford with such young bowlers, and without the services of Andrew Caddick and Darren Gough, bodes well for the future.

Hussain and Fletcher will not have had much time to celebrate their success on Monday as within 24 hours they had to put the final touches to England's squad for the NatWest Triangular one-day series, which starts at Trent Bridge a week tomorrow.

It is in this version of the game that England have struggled with most since these two took charge in 1999 and the squad announced this morning, should be pretty close to the one that travels to South Africa for the World Cup in eight months time.

England's plans for this tournament have already been hampered by the news that Caddick's side strain will keep him out of action for a minimum of four to six weeks and Gough's knee is still some way short of being right.

Gough, who has never lacked belief in himself, thinks he will be ready for action after a game with Yorkshire's Academy at the weekend and a run-out with their Second XI next week. He will join the squad if he successfully comes through these matches.

The policy of keeping someone as valuable as a fit Gough involved is to be applauded. It will allow the selectors to keep an eye on a player who has had a miserable time of it recently, with this injury and the breakdown of his marriage. It does, however, seem preposterous, even for a bowler who is England's highest wicket-taker in this version of the game, that he should even be considered fit to play after so little cricket. It would also fly in the face of Hussain's comments that he will only consider Gough when he is 100 per cent fit.

The injuries to these two leaves the fast-bowling door wide open and the man who has made the strongest case for inclusion is Old Trafford's man of the match, Alex Tudor. Joining him after a winter correcting his bowling action, following the throwing allegations on England's one-day tour of Zimbabwe in October, could be Sussex's James Kirtley.

The player to have done most to warrant inclusion is Ronnie Irani. The Essex captain has been in scintillating form this season and seems the obvious replacement for the much-missed Ben Hollioake.

The only other debate should be over whether England need two spinners. Giles left the third Test with a bad back, but if fit, will play ahead of Jeremy Snape which leaves the last place open for Owais Shah who scored an impressive 50 on his last outing.

ENGLAND ONE-DAY SQUAD (probable): N Hussain (capt), M E Trescothick, N V Knight, M P Vaughan, G P Thorpe, A J Stewart (wkt), P D Collingwood, O A Shah, A Flintoff, C White, R C Irani, A F Giles, A J Tudor, D Gough, R J Kirtley, M J Hoggard.

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