Thatscricket - News - England squad seeks match practice
Published: Thursday, May 3, 2001, 0:45 [IST]
Copyright AFP 2001
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London: England's contracted players are likely to feature in next week's round of championship games in a desperate attempt to gain match practice before the opening Test against Pakistan at Lord's on May 17. The weather-hit start to the new season has restricted opportunities for England's 12 centrally contracted players with only five, Marcus Trescothick, Dominic Cork, captain Nasser Hussain, Michael Vaughan and Matthew Hoggard, playing any first class cricket. Graham Thorpe, Alec Stewart and Michael Atherton were denied their chance last week when Lancashire's Championship match with Surrey was washed out at Old Trafford and England is now desperate for all its players to feature next week before they assemble at Lord's for the start of a long international summer. "It is a major concern but hopefully when Pakistan arrives here it will get the same situation and play in rain affected games as well so it equals out," said England coach Duncan Fletcher. "We want our guys to be prepared for the first Test but this is something that happens every year with the weather playing its part. "It's not ideal preparation by any means and apart from the odd One-day game the contracted players will probably play from here on in until the Test." Most of the contracted players are expected to feature in at least one of this week's Benson and Hedges Cup games, which precede the championship matches starting on next Wednesday. At least Fletcher can console himself with the return of Cork to action for Derbyshire having been sent home from England's tour to Pakistan before Christmas with a worrying back injury. "It's good to see him playing again even though he is not yet at full pace, he'll be a useful contributor especially at this stage of the season in England," confirmed Fletcher. But before England makes any plans for the opening Test, it must await results of scans performed on Hoggard and Warwickshire left-arm spinner Ashley Giles to determine their availability. Yorkshire fast bowler Hoggard broke down in the opening game of the season against Kent at Canterbury with a back problem, whilst Giles is attempting to overcome the long-standing Achilles problem, which restricted his effectiveness during the victorious tour of Sri Lanka. Fletcher is expected to consult with physiotherapist Dean Conway over the next few days to determine news of the pair before England decides whether to call additional players into its first Test squad. The England and Wales Cricket Board is also hopeful of reaching a conclusion to its negotiations with the players representatives over this year's contracts in the next couple of days, the parties reportedly close to an agreement.