Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fletcher Leaves It Up to Hussain; Cricket

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Fletcher Leaves It Up to Hussain; Cricket

Article excerpt


NASSER HUSSAIN has a week to decide whether he can carry on batting at No 3 in England's Test side. He is no longer rated among the world's top 30 batsmen, according to rankings issued after he contributed just four runs to his team's controversial, but crushing innings defeat in Galle.

The England captain has fallen a long way in a year and is acutely aware that while his stock as a leader grows all the time, the statistics are stacking up against him.

In South Africa 12 months ago, he batted like a dream, following knocks of 82 and 70 not out at Port Elizabeth with a marathon, undefeated 146 during the Durban Test.

Since then, Hussain has managed just one half-century in 18 completed innings at the highest level.

There was speculation after last summer's series with Zimbabwe and West Indies that he might drop down the order, at least for a time.

And now, despite having looked happier with his game in Pakistan and during the early weeks of this tour, fresh consideration is bound to be given for a slight change of

role. Coach Duncan Fletcher refuses to be drawn on the subject but does not dismiss it out of hand.

He admitted: "I think it is up to Nasser at this stage."

There are at least two arguments, however, against Hussain relinquishing the No3 position with the series already under way.

A move down the order now would give Sri Lanka's bowlers a psychological victory on top of the real one they already have in the bank. And, perhaps more important still, it would leave England looking for someone else to fill the toughest of all batting berths.

The No3 has to be prepared to face the second ball of the innings while knowing he may sit in the pavilion with his pads on for hour after hour.

Hussain has had almost all his Test success at No3 - a fact which kept him going throughout last year.

Fletcher added: "I've had a chat with Nasser about his form. …

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