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Mullally in the swing for England

Christopher Martin-Jenkins

3 August 1998

ENGLAND'S selectors have added Alan Mullally, but no one else, to the successful XI from Trent Bridge for the fifth and deciding Test match starting against South Africa at Headingley on Thursday. Mullally could possibly play in place of Dominic Cork even if the strategists decide, having assessed pitch and weather, to play Ian Salisbury again as their specialist spinner, writes Christopher Martin-Jenkins.

Salisbury played in the Trent Bridge Test with a cracked rib. He sustained the injury batting in the nets before the match but it was not disclosed. Despite his mauling by Hansie Cronje, neither the bowler nor anyone else has sought to make that an excuse for a disappointing return to the side after two years. He bowled, threw, dived and batted without apparent discomfort and 17 overs in the second innings of Surrey's match against Sussex have confirmed his fitness.

Robert Croft, who was in the 13 originally picked for Trent Bridge but released when the pitch was seen to be grassy, is omitted and must be starting to worry that he will be included only in England's one-day teams this winter. But he has been a positive influence on England's last two tours and it will not have been forgotten that he played a crucial part in preventing South Africa from establishing a stranglehold on the series by batting for 190 minutes at Old Trafford for an unbeaten 37 to save the match.

It is not quite true to say that Mullally has discovered an inswinger since he dropped out of the England side after the Auckland Test two winters ago, having taken 28 wickets at 33 in a run of nine successive Tests, because he was always capable of swinging the ball back in to the right-handers. But the greater number of bowleds and lbws he has been getting suggest at least a more-potent swing. He has many ways of getting batsmen out and the difference may be that he is using his variations more effectively.

His best Test analysis, three for 44 from 24 overs in a Pakistan total of 344 at Lord's in 1996, showed how valuably economical he could be, but match figures of two for 142 and a Pakistan total of 448 when he was part of a four-man fast attack on a flat pitch should warn against an all-seam attack again this time unless conditions truly merit it.

The selectors have also announced their First-Class Counties' XI to play South Africa in a one-day game, played in coloured clothing, at Headingley on Aug 12, and have given Surrey's Martin Bicknell, who is only 29, an opportunity to play himself into their winter plans.

Deprived of players from Lancashire, Hampshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire because of the NatWest Trophy semi- finals and Kent, who are due to play Sri Lanka the day before, the selectors have limited themselves largely to candidates already included in their 37-man provisional World Cup squad.

The comparison between Bicknell and Ed Giddins, both having oustanding seasons and both of whom were in the running for a place at Headingley, will be instructive, though, in a 50-over game, only up to a point. Like Giddins, Keith Piper, an England 'A' tourist to Pakistan two years ago, has been forgiven after being fined and suspended for smoking an illegal substance, in his case cannabis.

ENGLAND (squad for 5th Test v S Africa, Headingley, Aug 6-10):

M A Atherton (Lancashire, Age 30, Tests 83); M A Butcher (Surrey, 25-12); N Hussain (Essex, 30-33); *+A J Stewart (Surrey, 35-79); G A Hick (Worcestershire, 32-47); M A Ramprakash (Middlesex, 28-27); A Flintoff (Lancashire, 20-1); I D K Salisbury (Surrey, 28-10); D G Cork (Derbyshire, 26-23); D Gough (Yorkshire, 27-24); A R C Fraser (Middlesex, 32-42); A D Mullally (Leicestershire) 29-9.

FIRST-CLASS COUNTIES XI (v S Africa, Headingley, Aug 12):

*M P Maynard (Glamorgan), M W Alleyne (Gloucs), M P Bicknell (Surrey), A D Brown (Surrey), E S H Giddins (Warwicks), A F Giles (Warwicks), A P Grayson (Essex), B C Hollioake (Surrey), R C Irani (Essex), N V Knight (Warwicks), +K J Piper (Warwicks). Res: P M Hutchison & R J Sidebottom (both Yorkshire).

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 03 Aug1998 - 10:40