The England selectors wasted little time in making their first appointment of the 2003 season when they yesterday confirmed that Nasser Hussain will lead England in their seven summer Test matches against Zimbabwe and South Africa.
This decision comes as little surprise, after Hussain stated his intention to carry on as Test captain following his resignation from the one-day post in March after England's early departure from the World Cup. Although his side have had a miserable winter – they were beaten 4-1 during the Ashes series in Australia before a disappointing performance in South Africa – Hussain remains England's best leader and it would not have taken long for the selectors to reach this conclusion during their meeting at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
Deciding who takes over as the one-day captain will be an altogether more challenging affair for Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, and Geoff Miller. The favourite among the three prime candidates is the Yorkshire and England opener, Michael Vaughan, but Marcus Trescothick and in particular the Surrey captain, Adam Hollioake, have cases that are worth considering. A decision is not expected until the end of April.
Speaking about his successor, Hussain said: "I've had my input and they [the selectors] have had theirs. They have got a very tough decision to make because the two or three candidates mentioned are very fine men. It is a difficult decision to try and separate them."
One player whom the selectors will not be talking about before the first Test against Zimbabwe is the Durham batsman Paul Collingwood, who will be hoping to force his way into the Test side this summer. Such thoughts have had to be put on hold after the 26-year-old dislocated his left shoulder when diving in the field during a pre-season friendly against Lancashire at Old Trafford.
It is expected to keep Collingwood out of action for up to six weeks, thus ruling him out of the first Test at Lord's on 22 May. He does expect to be fit for England's first one-day match of the summer against Pakistan on 17 June.
* The England and Wales Cricket Board sponsor, npower, has extended its backing until 2005 in a deal worth £7m.
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