London: Once the euphoria of beating South Africa at The Oval dies down, England must quickly find a new wicketkeeper and middle-order batsman to replace the retired Alec Stewart.
Boosted by one of the great fightback victories in Test cricket on Monday, England has a great chance of following its 2-2 series tie with South Africa with victories over Bangladesh and Sri Lanka starting next month.
But the selectors have to find a way of replacing Stewart, a 40-year-old veteran of 133 Tests, who starred as a batsman, wicketkeeper and captain for 14 years. His last appearance was on Monday in the nine-wicket victory at his home ground and he was carried around The Oval on the shoulders of his teammates.
England, who fly out to Dhaka on October 7, will name the two squads for the Test series and one-day Internationals on Wednesday. The promising performances against South Africa as well as against Zimbabwe and Pakistan earlier in the summer suggest the English don’t need to make too many changes.
Replacing Stewart is a major problem, however.
The Surrey star has been around so long he has batted or kept wickets against some of the top bowlers in world cricket. Whoever takes over won’t have anything like that experience and opponents will quickly pick up on his weaknesses.
“Alec gave us the balance as a world class batter and the new guy coming in is going to realise he is going to be bowled at in certain areas,” said England coach Duncan Fletcher. “Opponents will have done their investigations and found out his weakness and it is whether he can overcome those weaknesses.
“We want two allrounders in the side. We had one in Alec and one in Freddie (Andrew Flintoff). We know about Freddie but now we’ve got to find this other allrounder.”
Nottinghamshire’s Chris Read and James Foster of Essex have each had the gloves for England before. Other candidates are Kent’s Geraint Jones and Tim Ambrose of Sussex, whose county is on the brink of winning its first county championship.
Meanwhile, England’s nine-wicket victory over South Africa, after the Proteas had scored a formidable 484 in the first innings, was hailed as one of their greatest ever wins. Bookmakers were offering odds of 40-1 on England winning the match after day one of the Test with the South Africans, who had looked the stronger team throughout the series, seemingly in command.