Wicket keepers and national selection have been much on my mind when watching the last few games of county cricket. Yes, one of the batsmen is going to have to drop out for Vaughan, and there are a fair few bowlers queuing for a run up the Lord’s slope two weeks from now. Yet both these battles are limited: no one expects the April top scorer to encroach upon a direct battle between Cook, Bell and Collingwood; Harmison and Hoggard have performed too well to expect other non-tourers to feature. The war of the wicketkeepers, however, just keeps hotting up.
Of course, a couple of weeks ago, Nixon and Prior were announced in the ‘Performance’ squad. Anyone who thought that Moores woudn’t opt for Prior had obviously missed the barrage of articles on Moores’ coaching history. However, the Sussex gloveman has made only 158 runs in seven completed innings. Nixon hasn’t yet had opportunity to bat in a first class game. Despite the Times making several mentions of Hampshire ‘keeper Nic Pothas’ England qualification in the early season, the player who has made the most waves in the last couple of weeks is Prior’s former competitor for the Sussex gloves, Tim Ambrose.
Now I’m never one to gloat, but it seems that, for once, I said something first. Of course, as a rather rampant Warwickshire fan, I might be accused of bias, but the numbers are rather impressive. In four innings, he has only once failed to make more than fifty, with the latest contribution a massive 251*, with a strike rate edging towards 80. This was the highest championship score by a wicketkeeper in a decade. In two fifty-over Friends Provident fixtures he has made 166 without losing his wicket. If he can maintain this kind of form, surely he must edge himself forward for international consideration.
Young hopeful Steven Davies has had a match to forget at New Road so far, with a couple of juggled stumpings on a track that the batsmen have had to be prised off. Geraint Jones has shown a little bit of his fine form of Cricket Past, with a flourishing 49. Then no ‘keeping summary would be complete without a nod to Chris Read, who took five catches in Glamorgan’s first innings and made a helpful 34. It may be an open contest – but is it open enough for any of these county tradesmen to overcome the Development Squad hurdle? Will Nixon be rewarded with a Test cap? Or will Moores’ long-standing affiliation with Prior win through? In a fortnight’s time, we might at least have more of an idea.