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Vaughan~~s return after Nasser~~s exit another dilemma

Published: Saturday, May 29, 2004, 3:01 [IST]
 
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London:When Nasser Hussain announced his retirement he said "seven (batsmen) into six doesn't go."

But the former captain's exit still leaves England with a problem ahead of Sunday's announcement of the team for next week's second Test against New Zealand at Headingley.

Current skipper Michael Vaughan is set to return on his home ground, the Yorkshire batsman having missed England's seven-wicket first Test win against New Zealand at Lord's concluded on Monday because of a knee injury.

The series opener was marked by England debutant Andrew Strauss's 112 and 83, the Middlesex skipper's second innings cut short by a run-out mix-up with Hussain.

However, Essex batsman Hussain once again showed his resilience by bowing out of cricket with an unbeaten 103 to take England to victory.

Strauss's performance though has left the selectors with a headache as the South African-born left-hander is an opener as is Vaughan.

Together with Somerset left-hander Marcus Trescothick, right-handed batsman Vaughan has formed a productive opening partnership.

Now the selectors must decide whether to restore Vaughan to his usual spot at the top of the order or move Strauss down the order despite his superb debut.

Vaughan, 29, saw his right knee suffer no adverse reaction to a Yorkshire training session on Friday and Monday's National League One-day contest against Scotland in Edinburgh will serve as a final fitness check ahead of the start of the second Test on Thursday.

In 31 Tests as an opener Vaughan has scored 10 hundreds at an average of 49.7 - world-class figures which argue for moving Strauss or Trescothick elsewhere.

But Somerset left-hander Trescothick is so ensconsced as an opener that the thought of him batting anywhere else for England is unlikely to be given much thought by the selectors.

Hussain said at Lord's on Thursday: "The lad who is coming in to take my place now is a pretty good player in Michael Vaughan and he's done very well.

"Whether it's him or Andrew Strauss that moves to number four, they're both very good players."

Looking ahead, 36-year-old Hussain said he was encouraged by the clutch of younger batsmen challenging for England honours.

"For the first time there are a few lads out there who are getting runs and getting good runs and they are a pool of players that warrant selection."

Hussain, who quit with 96 Test caps to his name, said he had been thinking of retiring at the end of the current English season long before his Lord's heroics.

"Should I stand there and let one of my teammates that has gone into battle with me for the last few years step aside when I know I'm going to retire in a few months time?" Hussain said.

"Should I let Marcus Trescothick sit out a Test and watch me plod along to 100 caps? I don't think so. All those other six batters, including Strauss, deserve to play and if I'm going to retire this summer it had to be me to step aside."

Headingley has traditionally favoured seam bowlers over spinners and, depending on conditions, England could bring in medium-pace all-rounder Paul Collingwood in preference to left-arm slow bowler Ashley Giles while leaving the rest of their Lord's attack unchanged.

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