July 18, 2003

Gough recalled to England Test squad

Wisden CricInfo staff

After an absence of almost two years, Darren Gough has been recalled to England's Test squad for next week's first npower Test against South Africa at Edgbaston. But there is no place for Graham Thorpe, despite his excellent form and recent assurances about his commitment to England's future.

Gough had been all but written off as an international player when he withdrew from last winter's Ashes and World Cup squads with a chronic knee injury. But he has battled back superbly this season, and was in irresistible form during the recent NatWest Series victory over South Africa. There remained some nagging doubts about his ability to withstand the rigours of five-day cricket - he had missed 20 consecutive Tests, dating back to England's tour of India in 2001-02 - but David Graveney, England's chairman of selectors, was convinced of his fitness.

"Darren Gough had an outstanding one-day series," said Graveney. "He has been playing four-day cricket for Yorkshire and he feels confident that he will be able to make a contribution to the Test side." Gough has been joined in the squad by James Kirtley, 12th man in the Tests against Zimbabwe, who takes the place of the injured Richard Johnson.

"Johnson was not considered for this match," added Graveney, "as he is still struggling with a groin injury and we have been advised by our medical staff that it would be best for him to play a county game to test his fitness before being included in a Test squad.

"With regard to the batting positions, Graham Thorpe was considered and we are pleased that his personal situation has improved and he is now able to commit himself to England home and away. But we felt that Anthony McGrath had done well in his first two Test matches earlier this summer and deserved to keep his place."

Against Zimbabwe earlier in the season, McGrath became the first English batsman to score half-centuries in his first two Test innings. Thorpe will just have to wait his turn, as will Chris Read, who was hugely impressive during the one-day series, but cannot yet displace the 40-year-old Alec Stewart, whose position was discussed at length.

"Alec Stewart will fight off the challenges - he is a quality international all-rounder," said Graveney. "If he responds the way we think he will that will be good for the team."

Speaking from Silverstone where the British Grand Prix is taking place, Stewart reminded everyone of his pedigree. "Over the last 128 Test matches I have proved myself and fortunately the selectors have agreed to pick me. Chris Read did exceptionally well, I believe. I didn't see a lot of the one-day series but all the reports were good and I'm sure he will have a very bright future."

Squad Marcus Trescothick, Michael Vaughan, Mark Butcher, Nasser Hussain (capt), Anthony McGrath, Andrew Flintoff, Alec Stewart (wk), Ashley Giles, James Anderson, Darren Gough, Steve Harmison, James Kirtley.