Thorpe inclusion for Ashes tour 'huge challenge'

GRAHAM THORPE has described his inclusion in England’s 16-man party for this winter’s Ashes tour as ‘‘the biggest challenge’’ of his career after taking time out from cricket to resolve his personal life.

The Surrey left-hander has not played a competitive match since announcing he was taking a complete break from cricket in the aftermath of his marriage breakdown after the Lord’s Test against India last July, prompting fears his mental state may not be up to a tough tour of Australia. He has held several meetings with the selectors and yesterday they revealed their decision to take the gamble of selecting him having been persuaded he has rediscovered his enthusiasm and passion for cricket during his time away.

It is a huge show of faith from the selectors and one Thorpe is keen to repay during the three-month tour as he attempts to rediscover a work ethic he admits was missing during his darkest hours earlier this summer.

Thorpe revealed that improved relations between himself and his estranged wife have helped him make the decision.

He is hopeful of making a return to action today for Surrey in their championship match against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl and admitted that the time away has given him time to think about his future. Thorpe’s selection may represent something of a gamble, but the same could be said for choosing two relatively untried fast bowlers in a five-strong seamer’s battery headed by Darren Gough, whose persistent knee trouble this summer has prevented him playing a Test since losing to Australia at The Oval over a year ago.

Durham’s Steve Harmison and Simon Jones of Glamorgan, who is currently troubled with a rib injury, will form the focus of a new-look pace attack which England hope will unsettle Australia in a similar manner to the way New Zealand’s Shane Bond hurried them up during their series last winter.

The remainder of the tour party comprises six batsmen, two wicketkeepers, a pair of spinners, an all-rounder and five fast bowlers but not places for Dominic Cork, Craig White, Robert Key or Alex Tudor, all of whom featured in the Test series against Sri Lanka and India this summer. Captain Nasser Hussain is joined by Mark Butcher, Andrew Caddick, Andrew Flintoff, Ashley Giles, Matthew Hoggard, Alec Stewart, Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan on contracts which will guarantee at least £100,000 apiece on a graded basis before appearance money and bonuses.

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