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Tuesday, 23 November, 1999, 16:41 GMT
England player profiles
The series defeat by New Zealand was one of the lowest points for English cricket

According to Wisden, England are now the worst Test team in the world.

It is a statistic that the selectors are desperate to alter - and they have chosen a 17-man squad which they believe can put things right in South Africa.

Nasser Hussain - captain
Age: 31
Team: Essex
Right hand bat

If Hussain ever had any doubts about the scale of his task as England captain, his side's abject series defeat by New Zealand will certainly have brought the message home.

Appointed as skipper following the hosts' disastrous World Cup campaign, it looked like English cricket could fall no further.

Sadly for Hussain it could and, after proclaiming a "brave new world" for the Test side, he watched them plumb new depths.

While he can hardly be blamed for the paucity of talent available to England, much is expected of his man-management skills and he faces a tough task to restore the morale to the touring party.

Much work behind the scenes is needed to irradicate the "traumatising" atmosphere in the dressing room that new caps experienced last summer.

At least Hussain's place in the team is secure. Possessing one of the soundest techniques in the line-up, the Madras-born batsman is a reliable accumulator of runs and will be expected to lead by example.

The finest fielder in the side, his athleticism can prove inspirational to his colleagues.

Chris Adams
Age: 31
Teams: Australian Capital Territory, Derbyshire, Sussex, Auckland
Right hand bat; right arm off-break

On the fringe of the Test side for a number of years, Adams owes his place to the perceived failings of more established batsmen like Graeme Hick and Mark Ramprakash.

A reliable performer on the county scene, he moved into the best paid echelon in the domestic game when he joined Sussex as captain two years ago.

Adams spent 10 years with Derbyshire, making a name for himself with his attacking middle-order batting and useful occasional bowling.

South Africa were the opponents when he received his only previous taste of international cricket, with two relatively anonymous displays in the one-day series in 1998.

Indeed, it is in the limited overs discipline that he excelled last season, a National League average of 80 eclipsing his County Championship mark of 33.

Mike Atherton
Age: 31
Teams: Lancashire, Cambridge University
Right hand bat

Questions over his fitness and form now dispelled, Atherton has resumed his role as the bedrock of the England batting line-up.

Still only 31, he seems to have been opening the innings for the national side for ever.

No one in modern Test cricket possesses his determination and concentration at the top of the order - never better emphasised than on the last tour of South Africa when his remarkable 185 not out earned England an unlikely draw in the second Test.

Atherton will be hoping to rediscover the form that brought that innings - which rates as one of England's finest ever rearguard actions - while the South African attack will again regard his wicket as the prize scalp in the team.

If his dodgy back can hold up he should again be a prime source of runs - as well as providing his good friend Hussain with able tactical support as senior tour member.

Mark Butcher
Age: 27
Left hand bat, right arm medium

To many critics of England's selection policy, Butcher is one of the more fortunate tourists this winter.

Since making his debut in the 1997 Ashes series, he has failed to fulfill his promise by nailing down a regular place as opener.

And poor shot selection ensured he had a scrappy series with the bat against New Zealand.

Yet despite his failings - and to the astonishment of those who accuse the selectors of southern bias - the Surrey man was still called upon to step in as captain when Hussain broke a finger.

He will need to prove himself this time around, though, or the writing could be on the wall.

An attacking opener who is also a useful partnership-breaking bowler, he has the ability and the upbeat approach to at last seal his position in the team.

Andy Caddick
Age: 30
Right hand bat, right arm fast

Arguably the only genuine England success story of the summer, Caddick was the most penetrating bowler against New Zealand - the country of his birth - as well as a useful source of lower-order runs.

He made his debut back in 1993, but like so many fast bowlers who have impressed on the county scene in recent years, he seemed unable to translate his promise into international class.

The result was an on-off England career, which saw him continually dropped - amid accusations of an introverted approach - before being recalled when the alternatives failed to come up with the goods.

But with the advent of the Hussain regime and the development a fuller length delivery, the 6ft 6ins paceman finally established himself as first choice - and he was immediately rewarded with the man of the series award against the Kiwis.

The only shame for the selectors is that it has taken the 30-year-old so long to silence his critics.

Andrew Flintoff
Age: 23
Team: Lancashire
Right hand bat, right arm medium

Billed as one of the potential stars of the World Cup, this big-hitting, powerfully built all-rounder struggled along with the rest of the England team during a sorry campaign.

After a successful time with the A team, Flintoff made his Test breakthrough in the last two matches against South Africa in 1998.

But while the rest of the team celebrated a timely series success at The Oval, he was a more forlorn, detached figure, having scored a "pair" in the decider.

As a result he was overlooked for the series against Australia and New Zealand and his supporters feared he would be consigned to a future as a one-day specialist.

But with none of his rivals able to secure the all-rounder's berth, the Preston-born star got the selectors' call.

Darren Gough
Age: 29
Right hand bat, right arm fast

For the past five years Gough's has been the first bowler's name on the England team sheet.

But unfortunately for selectors and supporters alike, a string of injuries have so often seen the team forced to take the field without him.

When the fiery Yorkshire paceman is there, England have an extra dimension to their cricket.

A whole-hearted competitor, with the ability to move the ball in the air at speed, his in-swinging yorker is a potent weapon.

At one stage he looked like becoming a genuine all-rounder, but his batting has slumped alarmingly and he is now a true tail-ender.

A bubbly character who acts as the squad's unofficial cheer-leader, he is the perfect tourist and, now a seasoned campaigner, he will be expected to help in the development of his heir-apparent, Alex Tudor.

Gavin Hamilton
Age: 25
Teams: Yorkshire, Scotland
Left hand bat, right arm fast medium

All-rounder Hamilton is set to achieve a rare double by representing both Scotland and England.

The star of the Scots' colourful World Cup debut, his average of 54 in one-day internationals earned him a call from England - and he says he is delighted to have made the switch.

The World Cup success proved just the impetus he needed, as 1999 was an excellent season on the county circuit.

He averaged over 50 with the bat and under 20 with the ball in first-class cricket for Yorkshire - proving he is more than just a limited-overs performer.

Darren Maddy
Age: 25
Team: Leicestershire
Right hand bat, Right arm medium

After making his debut for England right at the end of the ill-fated New Zealand series, Maddy will now have his sights set on securing a place at the top of the order in the Test team.

A stylish opener, he made his name with a series of dominant displays in Leicestershire's Championship-winning side and as a tourist with the A team.

He can also provide some useful medium pace support for the strike attack.

One of the hardest working players on the County scene, Maddy will at least provide the squad with some added determination.

Alan Mullally
Age: 30
Teams: Leicestershire, Western Australia, Hampshire
Right hand bat, Left arm fast medium

As with a number of the members of the touring party, Mullally may want to thank the selectors for giving him another chance.

When Hussain announced that a new broom would be sweeping through the Test set-up, his place looked to be one of the most vulnerable after a below-par summer.

But he probably owes his retention - ahead of the luckless Ed Giddins - to the fact that he is a left arm bowler, offering his skipper more variety and the chance of roughing up the surface for the spinners.

Born in Southend, but educated in Australia, he looked to have discovered some world-class penetration on last year's Ashes tour.

The selectors will be hoping his recent move to Hampshire has inspired him to reproduce his best form.

Chris Read
Age: 21
Teams: Nottinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Devon
Right hand bat, Wicketkeeper

One of England's newest players, Read has already had an eventful four-month Test career.

Selected at the start of the summer, with the hope that he could be nursed into the wicketkeeping role against New Zealand, one of the weaker Test nations, he was - according to former coach David Lloyd - "traumatised" by the atmosphere in the dressing room.

Edgy performances with the bat and behind the stumps followed.

Then, as the team floundered, he was discarded to allow the selectors to opt for their traditional desperate measure of handing the gloves to Alec Stewart.

But a doughty 37 did give signs of potential with the bat - and he was allegedly told long ago that his place for South Africa was secure.

With the age-old all-rounder problem still unresolved, Stewart is likely to keep Read out of the Test team - but the Devonian youngster is in pole position to replace him.

Chris Silverwood
Age: 24
Team: Yorkshire
Right hand bat, Right arm fast medium

Arguably the unluckiest man in English cricket, Silverwood has at last been the beneficiary of someone else's misfortune.

When Dean Headley was laid low in South Africa with injury before the Test series had even begun, Silverwood was given an SOS call from the management.

The Yorkshire seamer had been on tour with the A team in Bangladesh - but he was called up to the senior squad as cover, as Headley was forced home with a stress fracture of the back.

An encouraging Test debut against Zimbabwe in 1996 when he took 4-71 looked like heralding a long international career.

But the 24-year-old has instead been England's nearly man in recent years. While more established bowlers have struggled in the Test arena, he has frequently been 12th man or placed on stand-by for the full squad.

This time he will be hoping to earn a surprise call-up to the Test team, despite the fact that a number of bowlers are ahead of him in the pecking order.

Alec Stewart
Age: 36
Team: Surrey
Right hand bat, Wicketkeeper

Perhaps, after a year he will definitely want to forget, the stage could be set for Stewart's rehabilitation as the world's leading wicketkeeper-batsman.

Twelve months ago he was basking in the glory of leding England to their first major series victory for a decade.

But after an Ashes defeat and the World Cup debacle, he lost the captaincy and then became one of the major scapegoats for both press and public alike following the summer slump.

With most experts predicting that his distinguished Test career had come to an end, the selectors offered him another chance and - along with Atherton - has has been handed a senior advisory role.

His favoured position is as at the top of the order - and he has been one of the world's most attacking openers of the past decade - but he now seems destined for a middle-order berth.

Graeme Swann
Age: 20
Team: Northamptonshire
Right hand bat, Right arm off-break

Every time England go on tour it seems one young player is labelled as being just there for the experience.

But, more often than not, when the tourists start to falter, the Test call comes.

So for Alex Tudor last winter, read Swann this time around.

He made his name as a member of England's World Cup winning Under-19 side and subsequently earned an A team place.

The 20-year-old Northants spinner offers the squad another useful source of lower-order runs, which - following the tail-end failures of recent years - could even earn him a place ahead of Phil Tufnell.

Alex Tudor
Age: 22
Team: Surrey
Right hand bat, Right arm fast

If you follow the tabloid press, Tudor is the great hope for English cricket - having assumed that title following the failure of his Surrey team-mates, the Hollioake brothers.

But the selectors will have their fingers crossed that this time the hype does not have a detrimental effect on the development of a promising cricketer.

He does though provide the team with the kind of full-on pace that they have lacked throughout the 1990s - as he showed last winter Down Under.

And his match-winning 99 not out against New Zealand at Edgbaston - the one highlight of a dismal England summer - showed he has the potential to become a genuine all-rounder.

But there needs to be caution. A knee injury kept him out of the rest of the series and there are question-marks over his long-term fitness.

Phil Tufnell
Age: 33
Team: Middlesex
Right hand bat, Slow left arm

Sadly for England, Tufnell's story is all too familar.

A promising bowler breaks into the Test side and creates excitement with some eye-catching displays.

But when the match-winning performances dry up, he falls out of favour with the selectors and becomes just another on-off England player.

The lack of a world-class slow bowler has been one of the team's great regrets in recent years and Tufnell, with his flighted left-arm deliveries is the closest thing in the country to a Warne, Saqlain or Kumble.

Despite concerns over the years about his sloppy fielding, his woeful batting and a suspect work ethic, he is still in the squad - largely because there seems so little competition for his place.

But with the home side expected to go for pace-friendly Test tracks, Tufnell may find that opportunities to weave his spell are hard to come by this winter.

Michael Vaughan
Age: 25
Team: Yorkshire
Right hand bat, Right arm off-break

A three-time tourist with the A team and former Under-19 star, Vaughan knows all about representing his country.

But the Lancashire-born Yorkshire batsman has yet to gain full honours and faces stiff competition for an opening spot from the likes of Atherton, Butcher, Maddy and Stewart.

With a sound technique, solid defence and well-honed leadership skills, he has been tipped as a future national skipper.

But a disappointing domestic summer meant that his call-up came as something as a surprise.

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See also:
18 Oct 99 |  England on Tour
1995-96: England throw it away
18 Oct 99 |  England on Tour
South Africa - A unique selection policy
18 Oct 99 |  England on Tour
Hansie Cronje: Captain on trial
18 Oct 99 |  England on Tour
South African Test venues
18 Oct 99 |  England on Tour
England need Swann to strutt
18 Oct 99 |  England on Tour
Second time lucky for Maddy
18 Oct 99 |  England on Tour
A captain in the making
18 Oct 99 |  England on Tour
Hamilton switches sides
18 Oct 99 |  England on Tour
South Africa player profiles
18 Oct 99 |  Cricket
Cronje turns back on Glamorgan
18 Oct 99 |  England on Tour
'Think tank' role for Atherton and Stewart

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