After two days of this first Test of the summer it is impossible not to come to the conclusion that the selectors have made a complete nonsense of it all. At the last moment in selection they decided, in spite of all that had been said earlier, that experience was the order of the day.
Alec Stewart, the very epitome of experience, was lassoed from The Oval to continue his wicketkeeping career for England at the age of 39. John Crawley who is 30, has been scoring runs in torrents in his new incarnation with Hampshire, and they whistled him up too. They decided that he would demonstrate his county form, believing that the gap between county and Test cricket has grown smaller. We shall see.
They then discovered that Derbyshire's captain, Dominic Cork, another 30-year-old, had been bustling and hustling away to good effect with Derbyshire. They also remembered that Lord's is a favourite ground of his.
At the same time they have turned their backs on all those youngsters who have laboured away to such purpose in Adelaide under the shrewd tutelage of Rod Marsh during the winter.
Alex Tudor was in the final 12, but so strong was the magnetic appeal of experience that he was the man left out on the morning of the match.
After the first day it appeared that Cork had been brought south for one Test match too many at Lord's, but on the second he bowled his heart out and took three wickets. The jury is still out. He has straightened his run-up but the ball has not swung much for him. Think of the confidence Tudor would have gained from a place in this first Test of the season.
Stewart has kept adequately standing back for all but 14-overs. He dropped one catch on the first day when Mahela Jayawardene was 87. He flicked at Cork and Stewart dived to his left and tipped the catch round the post, while a younger and quicker mover might have reached it. He managed, though, to hang on to two edges late in the innings. Then, in order to accommodate his experience with the bat, Andrew Flintoff has been dropped to No 8, which is at least a questionable move.
It was all so sadly predictable – but not to the wise men who select England's sides. It looks as if the much vaunted combination of Nasser Hussain and Duncan Fletcher is in line for the odd booby prize, too. They certainly made a complete mess of reading this Lord's pitch in advance of the match.
The selectors will now surely decide that still greater experience is the crying need for Edgbaston the week after next. Kim Barnett will already be in a fever of excitement in the Gloucestershire dressing room. Philip Defreitas and Devon Malcolm will be making twice daily appointments with the Leicestershire physio. And, who knows, our own august sports editor may be about to start the search for a new cricket correspondent for the second time this year if Gus Fraser heroically answers the call of the bugle.
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