Understudy tourists

England will soon have to pick its squad for the winter tours and the three understudy roles up for grabs are those of top-three batsman, wicketkeeper and spinner. My calls for Bob Key were largely dismissed, so I’ll move on to the ‘keeper, who will start as Matt Prior’s back-up, but may get a crack if the Sussex man drops Sangakkara on 0 and becomes Murali’s latest bunny.

It seems England now have an embarrassment of riches at keeper with several stumpers scoring regular runs this season. Foster, Ambrose, Mustard, Read, Jones, Batty have all scored well. Read and Jones have likely had their turn, but Foster may be due another one? Ambrose has been excellent too. Tricky. Mustard must be in line for ODIs, because he’s brilliant at the top of the order for Durham. It’s a shame for Steven Davies that Worcestershire have hardly played this season.

Spinners are more of a quandary. I don’t agree that Pietersen and Vaughan can fill in the gaps. We need a genuine spinner to support Monty, especially in Sri Lanka. The problem is that, as ever, there are no English spinners topping the charts, although I can’t see what Graeme Swann has done to upset the selectors. He would do alright. Adil Rashid has great potential and can bat too. As can Alex Loudon. But would any of them bowl out Sri Lanka? I’m at a loss.

Bring back Shaggy?!

First-class ducks

I’ve been accused by venerable Corridor readers of being something of a duck fetishist, although I suspect there are more specialist websites for that. However, for the sake of consistency, it would be wrong to overlook the misfortune of Thomas Poynton, the new Derbyshire gloveman, who this week got a pair on his first class debut. But at the age of 17 years old, he will have better days and do one heck of a lot more in his career than me. In fact, he already has.

Hopefully he will be smashing the ball about in an England shirt before long, although with the recent form of English keepers, he has a lot of frogs to leap. Foster, Ambrose, Mustard, Read, Nixon all in the runs, putting pressure on Prior. Good to see.

Pass the gloves, please

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.