Pundits choice, comebacks and late for parade

Matt Prior, currently England’s current third-choice wicketkeeper for limited-overs assignments, has nevertheless done enough to persuade a Sky Sports’ panel of former internationals that he should be ahead of Craig Kieswetter and Steven Davies. They have chosen him in their XI to compete in next year’s World Cup. Sky commentator Mike Atherton chaired the group, which included Daily Telegraph cricket correspondent Derek Pringle and fellow former England players Alec Stewart and Darren Gough, and which selected what they felt would be England’s best-equipped team for the subcontinent. The TV feature – to be screened during the NatWest Series against Pakistan – threw up a number of interesting picks, not least the opening partnership. Prior was paired with Ian Bell despite their disastrous liaison in India two years ago when they struggled to capitalise on the fielding restrictions imposed during the powerplay overs, which so influence matches in Asian conditions. The quartet argued that both men have responded to being jettisoned from the England one-day set-up by learning how to go aerial against the new ball.

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A number of counties are believed to have been considering moves for Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif before the recent spot-fixing allegations came to light. With little international cricket on their horizons and the likelihood of Pakistan players again being snubbed by the Indian Premier League, the pace pair were attractive options for 2011. Asif claimed 25 first-class wickets for Leicestershire during seven appearances in 2006 but the Pakistan Cricket Board put the kibosh on his return in 2007. Surrey signed him the following summer but he never made it to London thanks to further PCB intervention. The Brit Oval hierarchy are keen to reinforce the club’s bowling this winter but it is understood that their initial interest had been in Asif’s team-mate Saeed Ajmal.

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Neil Fairbrother is the second former Lancashire cricketer in as many years hoping for some tangible reward on a club comeback. Twelve months ago, David Lloyd hit the winning runs to secure the Lancashire League title for Accrington. Now Fairbrother is on course for promotion with Grappenhall in the Cheshire County League. The 46-year-old’s first game back at his old village club for 27 seasons saw him sacrificed via a run-out, but a hundred and a half-century have followed and victory over Heaton Mersey this weekend could seal a place in the Premier Division.

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Toby Roland-Jones fell foul of the London Tube strike this week, arriving 40 minutes late for the opening morning of Middlesex’s Division Two County Championship fixture against Worcestershire at Lord’s. Having been gridlocked in the capital’s traffic, the 22-year-old did not take long to vent his frustration, claiming the one wicket to fall before lunch – that of David Wheeldon. His lateness on parade was incomparable to that of the Kent team against Surrey eight years ago, however. A burst water main at Hyde Park Corner forced them to zigzag back and forth across the Thames and the usual 15-minute journey from their Bayswater hotel to the Oval took more than three hours, delaying the start until midday.

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How refreshing to see English cricketers being employed as overseas players around the globe in 2010-11. Injury doubts over one stalwart, Dimitri Mascarenhas, led Otago to engage Chris Nash and Darren Stevens, a couple of streetwise county pros, for their domestic Twenty20 competition in December. Meanwhile, Owais Shah’s maiden post-Middlesex venture is set to be with South Africa’s Cape Cobras.

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