Cricket: England's Constant Search for a Wicket Keeper-Batsman

Joe WhitworthCorrespondent IJuly 16, 2008

Since Alec Stewart hung up his gloves, England have been searching for a replacement. However, nobody has stepped up and consistently been counted as the wicketkeeper-batsman that the country so desperately needs.

The selectors have tried Paul Nixon, Chris Read, Geraint Jones, Matt Prior and James Foster but none of them have been able to hold down the place as their own like Stewart did superbly.

Tim Ambrose, who is the current candidate, has been awful recently with the bat, making 4, 2, 6, 0 and 1 in his last five innings and hasn't had the best time with the gloves dropping crucial regulation catches at critical stages of a match.

However, with three more Test matches to come against South Africa, now is not the time to go changing a wicket keeper who hasn't been given a long time in the team to date.

The question is whether or not to persevere with Ambrose if he fails with the bat in the remaining Test matches and doesn't perform as well as everyone knows he can with the gloves.

England say they are trying to go with consistency by using the same keeper for  Test matches as One Day Internationals, which is a bit confusing when the teams have different captains but the right intent is there.

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But if Ambrose does not live up to his potential, there are a lot of keepers waiting for the gloves at international level other than those mentioned above.

Phil Mustard, Steve Davies, Jon Batty, Nic Pothas or Mark Wallace could all be in the running for the position.

Other countries seem to have this problem solved with Mark Boucher for South Africa, Brendon McCullum for New Zealand, Mahendra Singh Dhoni for India and until recently, Adam Gilchrist for Australia.  

After so much chopping and changing in the side, the same question occurs again: should Ambrose be kept in the side whatever happens to maintain consistency and hope over time he does perform? Conversely, should the wicketkeeping axe fall again and should someone else be given a chance to become England's permanent glove man?

Hopefully, for Ambrose, he will go on and make some good scores in the Test series and do his fair share as keeper, but if he doesn't it may well be time for another change behind the stumps.