England selectors on easy street

England selectors, who will announce their squad for the Tests against New Zealand on Sunday, have a line-up that virtually picks itself.
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Updated on May 15, 2004 04:55 PM IST
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PTI | ByAgence France-Presse, London

England's cricket selectors, who will announce their squad for the first Test against New Zealand on Sunday, find themselves with the unusual luxury of having a line-up that virtually picks itself.

England's heroics in the Caribbean during the northern hemisphere winter and a lack of injury problems means the bulk of the squad is comprised of automatic selections.

Ten of those who sealed the series win in Barbados last month are likely to be joined by Geraint Jones, who has edged out Chris Read for the wicketkeeper's berth, James Anderson and possibly Paul Collingwood.

Anderson, who took six first-innings wickets for Lancashire in their County Championship match with Worcestershire at Old Trafford this week, would provide another swing-bowling option and should the conditions be overcast, Simon Jones' place could come under pressure.

With the batting unit well established, Durham's Collingwood, a centrally-contracted player, may be included as cover for the build-up to the first of three matches against the New Zealanders.

Geraint Jones got an early look at the tourists this week after the decision to rest, taken after consultation with England coach Duncan Fletcher, was overturned.

The 27-year-old made his debut in the drawn fourth Test in Antigua recently and has been promised the entire series against New Zealand to stake his claim for a place.

"The original thoughts were not to play so I could get a few days' rest going into the Test but due to the weather recently I missed two weeks of cricket and without that preparation I felt I needed more," said Jones.

"It has been a disruptive start to the summer for me and since getting back I have had to get used to the ball swinging after it passes the wicket again, it has taken a week or two to adapt to that.

"Not having a score behind me was another factor and I am looking for more time in the middle. When you come back from a winter tour everyone thinks you are in the form of your life and in reality you have missed pre-season and a chance to get used to the different conditions.

"I think the management would have liked to have hidden me from the New Zealanders a bit but with the technology around these days they can tap up on a computer to see me in action, they could have watched me playing in the West Indies and their coach (John Bracewell) has seen me during his time at Gloucestershire."

Jones managed just 21 runs in three first class innings prior to the current contest at Canterbury and barely made it out of the nets during his first England winter.

But in an attempt to create continuity of selection, captain Michael Vaughan and coach Duncan Fletcher promised the Australian-raised keeper at least three Test matches at the start of this summer.

"All the time Ready was in the side it was in my mind that if I did get my chance I would be given a good run to prove my worth," Jones added.

"The times have gone now where you only get one or two matches to show what you can do before you get cast off.

"If you are constantly looking over your shoulder, wondering whether your second Test is going to be your last game, you are not giving everything to that match.

"But if you know you are in for a run it takes some pressure off and you can focus on the situation in the game rather than worry about whether you will be there for the next one."

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