Strength in depth gives England new momentum

Impressive performances of understudies bring an extra competitive edge to Hussain's squad

Henry Blofeld
Sunday 08 December 2013 04:21

England's selectors suddenly find themselves in the most enviable position. Everything went so well for them at Lord's when what was effectively a second string attack dominated and defeated a dangerous Indian batting side, that they can afford to take a much more relaxed view of the injuries which caused them to be wringing their hands only a few days ago.

Darren Gough and Andy Caddick have been so central to their thinking in the last two or three years that when they are both not fit, which has been far too often, excuses are in the air before hostilities have even begun. With Alex Tudor also unfit, those excuses were ready to be used again if all had not gone well at Lord's.

Simon Jones' excellent debut may turn out to have been a turning point both for the side's competitiveness and for the selectors' thinking. A strong, enthusiastic fast bowler of genuine pace burst upon the scene not so much like the raw, untrained colt we had been promised, but like a thoroughbred with a good pedigree able to take this first major trial in his stride.

Of course he has much to learn, but the basics are there. He has already worked hard on his bowling, having first shortened and then slightly lengthened his run up. The rhythm is there, although the machinery of his approach and action will benefit in time from further fine adjustments. He batted and fielded with the same boundless enthusiasm. It was as if the young thoroughbred was relishing an early morning outing on the gallops. He was so refreshing.

Jones' arrival served to lift the whole side. All the bowlers played their part, while Graham Thorpe was the only batsman not to contribute. His decision, announced yesterday, to take some time out of the game has taken a potentially difficult decision out of the selectors' hands. They might have felt anyway that it was best to leave him to sort out the personal problems which have been weighing on his mind.

The selectors may want to use his place to blood a young batsmen with Australia in mind, but when Thorpe has got his thinking right and returns to the game he will badly need practice.

Provided they are fit, the other 10 who won the First Test must be automatic selections for next week's second at Trent Bridge. If ever players need rewarding for a good performance, it is now.

England have shown themselves that, good cricketers though they are, Gough and Caddick are no longer indispensable. This is an excellent development as the first two are both into their thirties and cannot go on for ever.

They will now realise this themselves and it should make them all the keener to get back into the side, which can only work to England's advantage. Fierce competition is the best motivation of all. It makes players work harder and think less about the unnecessary embellishments which prima donnas have a habit of enjoying.

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