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Gough set to join exodus of the old guard

Darren Gough is set to bow out of Test cricket after the Lordís match. The retirement of Gough and Alec Stewart, and the resignation of Nasser Hussain as captain and possibly his retirement too, mark the end of an era for the older generation in the England team who have been overwhelmed by South Africa.

If Gough makes the announcement as expected, he will finish eighth in the list of all-time England Test wicket-takers with 229 at an average which was below 28 before this match but went up to 28.39 after the mammoth South African total.

Gough has been Englandís finest strike-bowler since Ian Botham and Bob Willis, but not any more. He made a brave comeback from his chronic right knee injury, and did a competent job in the limited overs series which England won.

But without the spring in delivery which he previously had, and therefore with a flatter trajectory, he has been meat and drink to Smith like all the other England bowlers.

Extrovert and ever-cheerful, Gough was the heartbeat of Englandís teams at his best. He was responsible for Englandís four consecutive Test series victories that marked the high point of Hussainís captaincy. In two of them Gough was Man of the Series ó against the West Indies in 2000, and away in Sri Lanka in the winter of 2000-01.

Much earlier, Gough had become the English pioneer of reverse swing by observing Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. It was at Lordís against South Africa in 1994 that he gave a fine exhibition of it. Saturday he could find no such movement and was denied a 230th wicket when Mark Butcher dropped a slip chance offered by Boeta Dippenaar.

Gough is expected to announce that he will continue to be available for ODIs, where his accuracy, nous and yorkers still command a place. He has 188 ODI wickets, more than any other England bowler.

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