Silverwood and Shah Earn Vote for Winter Tours (11 Sep 1996)

Silverwood and Shah earn vote for winter tours

By Christopher Martin-Jenkins

THE appointments of Nasser Hussain as vice-captain of the senior England team and of Adam Hollioake as leader of the A side stood out as strongly as the selection of 21-year-old Chris Silverwood and 17-year-old Owais Shah in the winter tour announcements made from Lord`s yesterday.

Despite some contentious omissions the two teams have a good chance of achieving the triple objectives, namely to win - something a senior England side last managed four years ago - to prepare for Australia next season and to look a little further ahead too.

Silverwood, of Yorkshire, gets a place on the main tour to Zimbabwe and New Zealand ahead of Peter Martin, Chris Lewis and Simon Brown, who have all bowled in Tests for England this summer. Shah is preferred to David Sales as the novice batsman on the A tour.

His is the only unexpected selection in either side, and this only because he would have been available for the under-19 tour to Pakistan, on which Sales will certainly go after his double hundred in his first championship match for Northamptonshire. Shah, of Middlesex, born in Karachi and 18 next month, has from early boyhood been talked about by all who have seen him bat as something very special.

Mark Ramprakash may allow himself a wry smile at that observation, for much the same was said of him in his schooldays. Although Ramprakash, whose Test career is in at least temporary eclipse, was considered as captain of the A team, he now comes into the same category as Martin, of whom Ray Illingworth, having completed his last duty as chairman of selectors after a chequered three years in office, said: "He`s very unlucky, but once he didn`t make the full side there wasn`t a great deal to learn by sending him on the A tour."

Apart from Martin and Ramprakash, no fewer than seven others who played Tests for England in South Africa last winter have to make their own winter arrangements this year: Robin Smith, Angus Fraser, Richard Illingworth, Devon Malcolm, Mike Watkinson, Mark Ilott and Graeme Hick, who is really the most notable omission of them all, if only because, prior to this season, he had averaged 60, 41, 50 and 48 in four successive Test series.

Unless he abandons ship and returns to Zimbabwe, which I am sure he has no intention of doing, Hick is surely too good a player not to return to the England side when one of the top six who, by taking their opportunities this year picked themselves, injures himself or loses form over a lengthy period.

As it stands, Atherton, Stewart, Hussain, Thorpe, Crawley and Knight have every chance to prove themselves a genuinely strong unit against the modest attacks which will confront them in the five Tests and eight one-day internationals to be played in Zimbabwe and New Zealand between December and March.

The impossible task of getting the perfect combination for the A tour to Australia from Oct 25 to Dec 14 occupied the five selectors for most of their two-hour 10-minute meeting but first they had to sort out the all-rounders and the bowling for the senior trip. They made their task simpler by deciding first that they would take only one all-rounder and that, of their five fast bowlers, one would be young and uncapped.

Illingworth justified the choice of Silverwood, one of five Yorkshire players in the two teams (when Yorkshire are strong, so are England, they once said and Illingworth has not forgotten) by suggesting that the outlook was poor if at least one uncapped bowler could not be chosen for a tour against modest opposition and by comparing him to Brian Statham in temperament. If Silverwood takes 252 wickets in 70 Tests as Statham did, Illingworth`s retirement - to be spent in Spain, Farsley and, no doubt, on the air-waves - will be a contented one. Silverwood, he said, is "a nice lad who just gets on with his bowling and he has taken more of the early [top order] wickets than Darren Gough this year."

Gough`s return is as welcome as Phil Tufnell`s, given England`s lack of natural bowling talent, which both possess in abundance. Tufnell`s return to favour is the result of outstanding bowling for Middlesex this season - 74 wickets at 20 - and of Ian Salisbury`s failure at the Oval. Tufnell`s 68 Test wickets have come so far at almost 40 runs a wicket, so not too much should be expected of him, even as a temperamentally more mature 30-year-old.

It is going to be "up to the tour management" whether Dominic Cork travels with the team or a little later. Illingworth criticised Cork for not doing enough work to build up the leg muscles which support his knees, but he will spend much of his time in Zimbabwe doing that rather than playing in warm-up matches.

Cork and Alan Mullally were the only bowlers to play in all six Tests this season against India and Pakistan. Mullally, who has agreed a new three-year contract with Leicestershire, did well enough to be an automatic selection for the tour, just, but it is a shame that there was no place in the A side for either Simon Brown, who has taken more wickets than any of the eight regular left-arm-over bowlers in county cricket, or Jason Lewry, of Sussex, whose inswinger is the most lethal.

Andrew Caddick`s selection - ahead of Lewis, Martin and the five A team fast-medium bowlers - Glen Chapple, Andrew Harris, Dean Headley, Mark Ealham and Craig White - perhaps owes something to Graham Gooch`s contention that this somewhat enigmatic, New Zealand-born 27- year-old is the opening bowler he least likes to face in county cricket.

No one envied the selectors their choice of all-rounder, but it is a pity there was no A team place for Danny Law, who may now play for Natal this winter. It was not clear whether Illingworth was speaking for all the selectors when he said that the choice was between Irani, Ealham and Craig White and that Hollioake was viewed more as a specialist batsman and one-day bowler.

The chairman conceded that Ealham, the leading English bowler this season, was very unlucky to lose a 50-50 decision against Irani. I think Ealham will prove the better cricketer, but there is no denying Irani`s desperate desire to succeed or his engaging self- confidence. He has a great chance to establish himself against relatively weak opposition this winter.

Illingworth expects England "to win and to win well in Zimbabwe and New Zealand". It is no longer his responsibility but it is virtually certain to be David Lloyd`s. Tim Lamb, who takes over next month as chief executive of the TCCB - and later of what will be called not, as expected, the ECB but the EWCB, the England and Wales Cricket Board - told The Daily Telegraph that it was only a question of "dotting the i`s and crossing the t`s" on a two-year contract for Lloyd to remain the national team coach.