SOME players plummet into an irreversible decline when they are discarded by the international selectors but Anthony McGrath has blossomed in the two years since England rejected him. "I feel I am a better batsman now than I was when I played for England," said the right-hander, who played four Tests in 2003 and made the last of his 14 one-day international appearances in September 2004.

The statistics back up his claim. Before England picked him to face Zimbabwe in May 2003, he was a talented but unfulfilled player, with a career average of less than 30 in eight years of first-class cricket.

Since being sent back to the county game, he has become a mainstay of Yorkshire's batting, scoring 1,425 Championship runs at 59.37 with five centuries last year. It was the first time he had passed 1,000 runs in a season.

This year, he has continued in the same vein, passing 50 in five of his eight Championship innings and scoring 505 runs at 84.16. His output is all the more impressive given that he bats at No 3 and is rarely shielded from the new ball.

In almost any other era, this sustained period of good form would have resulted in a Test recall but England's good form, the crop of promising younger batsmen and Duncan Fletcher's policy of consistent selection have left McGrath, 30, well down the pecking order.

Most sportsmen offer these sentiments but with the unassuming McGrath, they have a ring of truth. He seems genuinely more concerned with Yorkshire's results than with his own scores and it is perhaps that mature attitude that has galvanised his batting.

"I'm happy with the way I've started the season but the team's performances have been frustrating," said the Bradford-born batsman. "We've played well in patches but we've had a couple of really bad sessions and we haven't won in the Championship. I want to do well in a winning side.

"When I was younger, I wanted to stay in the side. As a young player, the most important thing is your own performance. You worry about statistics and how many runs you are getting.

"I was inconsistent in the early days but the more I play, the more I realise this game is in the mind. The less thoughts you have going through your mind, the better."

McGrath's medium-pace has become an increasingly useful part of Yorkshire's attack and he was picked for England initially as a temporary replacement for the injured Andrew Flintoff. However, he does not see himself as an all-rounder.

The 30-year-old scored 69 on his debut and took 3-16 as England beat Zimbabwe by an innings. Another half-century against Zimbabwe followed but he was omitted after scores of 34, 4 and 13 against South Africa.

Even though McGrath has added discipline to his stroke-making ability, he may never be given the chance to alter his impressive Test averages of 40.2 with the bat and 14.0 with the ball.

Director of cricket David Byas has made two changes from the XI that drew with Lancashire a fortnight ago, with Joe Sayers the unfortunate man who has to make way for the return of Michael Vaughan, and John Blain dropped.

Off-spinner Richard Dawson will surely return after being controversially omitted against Lancashire, but Mitch Claydon is putting pressure on fellow fast bowlers Deon Kruis and Tim Bresnan.

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