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Caddick and Irani ready for England shoot-out

Martin Johnson in Bulawayo

10 December 1996

IT IS a rare event for an England Test side to more or less pick themselves, and in a home series, the selectors would already be reaching for a blindfold and pin. Here in Zimbabwe, however, there are only 14 names to consider, and it is merely a question of deciding on their best XI. Or perhaps in this case, their worst three.

In practical terms, there are only 13 names in the hat, as Jack Russell - assuming that Alec Stewart gets through the next game with neither broken fingers nor butter fingers - has already been jettisoned in the interests of stiffening the batting.

The only remaining question, therefore, is which one of Andrew Caddick, Chris Silverwood, and Ronnie Irani will be given the third seamer's role. As choices go, this will probably begin with a stern, behind closed doors, in depth debate, and end with several deep sighs and a quick game of eeny-meeny-miney-mo.

Lying in third place in this trio is Silverwood, though more on the grounds of inexperience than anything else. Purely on form, picking between Caddick and Irani is the equivalent of a mountain climber being given a choice of footwear: plimsolls, or a pair of slippers.

The main focus, then, of the four-day game against Matabeleland, which starts today at the Bulawayo Athletic Ground, will be the shoot-out between Caddick and Irani. And if both of them reach for the holster and pull out nothing more lethal than a water pistol, Silverwood might still find himself making his Test debut here next week.

Alan Mullally has been given the game off, partly to allow Caddick and Irani to fight it out between themselves, but mostly because he has played in every game so far, and the tour selectors, Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain and David Lloyd, want him fresh for the Test.

Of all three contenders for the final bowling spot, Caddick is the one with proven ability and experience. On the other hand, he may not quite be the man you would want by your side in the trenches, and with Atherton an open supporter of the Australian ethos of treating Test cricket only marginally less seriously than war, it is a slight surprise that Caddick is here at all.

Irani is the latest contender for the all-rounder's position, and was picked for this tour ahead of Mark Ealham, Chris Lewis, Adam Hollioake and Craig White. However, the fact that he is now in line to be selected for a Test primarily as a bowler, after a series of performances that would qualify as no better than moderate, again questions the wisdom of not replacing Dominic Cork.

England's batsmen will get a good look here at Heath Streak, who, on performances over the past two years, has the best Test average - 53 wickets at 19.38 - of any bowler currently playing. Darren Gough is the best-placed Englishman, 20th, while Zimbabwe, statistically, also have the best batsman. Dave Houghton is fourth (average 58.31) with Atherton the highest Englishman, 16th, with an average of 45.

Atherton, having recovered full mobility following the injections in his back, is in chipper mood, and is even considering a round of golf in the not-too-distant future. Yesterday, on England's first full day off so far on tour, he opted for a fishing trip, and happily failed to hook anything large enough to put him back in the X-ray room.

His mood will also be lighter after finally getting a win under his belt. There is nothing Atherton feels more than his team coming in for public ridicule, something the Australians now have down to a fine art. Midway through the 1990-91 Ashes series there, England's first halfway decent day of the series resulted in the newspaper headline:

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 15:10