Thorpe a batsman in distress

First Test: England's supposed second-string bowlers hit right notes to sound warning to Caddick and Gough

By Stephen Fay
Wednesday 08 January 2014 05:12

It was a memorable day for England, but not for three players who have been fixtures in the team through plenty of thin and not a lot of thick.

Graham Thorpe had a dreadful time, dropping Sachin Tendulkar and playing an abject shot to lose his wicket for one. Andrew Caddick was at Lord's yesterday too, not playing but looking thoughtful. England's pace attack, which had been described before the game as "second string", was beginning to look something like a finished article.

Thorpe's place, after two embarrassing failures with the bat, must now be seriously questioned. As for Caddick and his fellow member of the Injured Party, Darren Gough, they must be wondering about their futures. A month ago it would have been ridiculous to speculate that all or some of these England stalwarts would not be on the Ashes tour this winter. Now it is looking conceivable.

It is most upsetting to watch Thorpe. He is England's best batsman; his last England century was only two Tests ago at Edgbaston and it delighted him. But regular injuries have prevented him from becoming a reliable figure in the middle order. More damaging, however, is a life that destroys peace of mind. He is alienated from his parents; his marriage ended acrimoniously and he is anxious about his children. In the first innings of this Test he leaned forward almost absent-mindedly, and lost his off stump.

Yesterday, he played a lame-looking square cut which arced gently to short extra-cover. Just as he had when he dropped a low but catchable chance at second slip when Tendulkar was 10, he looked inexpressibly sad.

Last night, coach Duncan Fletcher said Thorpe is a class players and England will persevere with him. The lingering question is whether he will persevere with England. Caddick and Gough are concentrating on getting fit, not so much for this series against India as for Australia in November. Now they must have begun to think awful thoughts. Maybe they have played their last Tests for England? Perhaps last summer's Ashes series was their last hurrah and no one heard it?

Think back to pessimistic judgements made late in June. Matthew Hoggard: promising but flakey. Andrew Flintoff: promising but still inexperienced. Alex Tudor: always crocked. Simon Jones: fast, loose and fortunate to be in the squad. Craig White? Come off it, his pace had gone. And they were about to face two of the best batting line-ups in the world.

Not a bit of it. At Lord's, Hoggard and Flintoff have opened the attack; with Jones and White to replace them. All have got wickets. Each had two until Hoggard got his third with the new ball. Getting India out for 221 on an easy track at Lord's has been a splendid performance. For an attack described as second string it has been magnificent. We are looking at England's future and it is working. Flintoff and Hoggard will soon be fixtures. White, his pace regained, is a reassuring No 8 batsman.

And what about Jones? He sprayed the ball all about on Friday; you would not describe his bowling yesterday as being line and length. It was fast and exciting and, having almost undone Tendulkar, it well deserved the two wickets he did get. But the impressive thing was Hussain's confidence in him. Jones bowled more overs than any of his colleagues.

Jones or Tudor? Tudor has had his chances, and he took them remarkably well at Trent Bridge last year and Old Trafford this summer, but he is so unreliable – not unpredictable. It is his recurring injuries that are predictable.

Gough's anxiety to get back into Test cricket is understandable, but he has suffered for it. He is unlikely to be fit by August. Nor, apparently, will Caddick. It makes for an unexpected rush of sympathy for the selectors. Who are they to choose to open the bowling at Brisbane early in November? Fletcher refers to the young bowlers as being fine for filling gaps when the team has injuries. They are looking more permanent than that suggests.

A month ago it was a foregone conclusion. After Old Trafford and now Lord's this is no longer certain. The presence of Flintoff batting at No 7 and opening the bowling, and White at No 8, a fifth bowler capable of bowling 20 overs, sounds suddenly reassuring. Then pick two from Hoggard, Tudor and Jones and you have a promising attack of players of whom only White is over 30. The oldest member of the young crowd is the 25-year-old Hoggard; Flintoff and Tudor are 24, and Jones is 23.

Gough and Caddick would probably come back for the World Cup, if fit. But that was not how they imagined a last, loud hurrah. Australia's the place for that. They would be inconsolable to be overtaken, but selection is not sentimental.

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