JASON GILLESPIE last night emerged as the red-hot favourite to become the new England coach in place of Peter Moores.
The Yorkshire first team coach is now the clear frontrunner to replace Moores, who is expected to be sacked early next week.
Former England captain Andrew Strauss – due to be confirmed as England’s new director of cricket – is set to pull the trigger with the backing of incoming England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves.
England want their new man on board in time for the Ashes, where former Australia fast bowler Gillespie would come up against his great friend and former team-mate Darren Lehmann, the Australia coach.
Gillespie and Yorkshire have remained tight-lipped about speculation linking him to the post, which has intensified after England’s disastrous showing at the World Cup and subsequent failure to beat a West Indies side described by Graves as “mediocre”.
Gillespie has made no secret of his desire to break into international coaching, and it is thought that he would find it difficult to turn the England job down.
It would be a major blow to county champions Yorkshire, whom Gillespie helped lead to the County Championship title last summer and under whom the club have lost only three of their last 51 Championship games.
If Gillespie goes, it is unclear whether director of cricket Martyn Moxon would want sole responsibility for running the first XI or whether Yorkshire would look to appoint another coach to work under Moxon as Gillespie has done.
News of Moores’s impending dismissal emerged yesterday during England’s one-day international against Ireland in Malahide.
The game was ruined by rain as Ireland made 56-4 in the 18 overs possible, the grim conditions seeming appropriate for Moores in what seems certain to have been his last game in charge – just over a year since he was appointed for a second term.
England return to action in just 12 days’ time when they play the first of two Test matches against New Zealand.
It is unclear whether there would be sufficient time to get a new coach in place in time for that series, with one possibility being that Paul Farbrace, the former Yorkshire second team coach and current England assistant coach, could take the reins on a temporary basis.
Gillespie, 40, is the outstanding candidate from county cricket, with the only other name mentioned in dispatches being that of Justin Langer, his former Australia team-mate.
Langer knows Strauss well from their time together at Middlesex, but Langer yesterday denied having been contacted by the ECB.
It is thought that Gillespie would have no problem working with Strauss, with whom he has shared punditry duties on satellite television.
However, it is highly likely that Gillespie would want certain assurances regarding his ability to mould the team in his own image – perhaps even down to choosing his own man as captain, such as Yorkshire’s Joe Root, who perf0rmed well in the Caribbean.
Gillespie would bring not only outstanding coaching and man-management credentials to the position but would also be good in terms of PR.
One of the features of his time at Yorkshire has been his willingness to engage with the media, something that England have been particularly bad at in recent times as they have failed to properly promote the game.
Gillespie would also have a big advantage in that several members of the Yorkshire team are currently involved in the national side, with six Yorkshire players having been chosen for the recent tour of West Indies.
Gillespie is highly-regarded by the Yorkshire team, which he has encouraged to play in a positive, aggressive way – a philosophy that reaped dividends last year when the club won their first silverware of any description since 2002.
It is the Graves effect, however, that is perhaps the most significant.
The former Yorkshire chairman appointed Gillespie in 2011 in a major coaching reshuffle at Headingley and remains a firm admirer.
England handed debuts to five players in Ireland yesterday, with the Test team rested after the Caribbean trip.
James Taylor marked his first match as captain by winning the toss, but the game was abandoned at 3pm.
There was time, at least, for a maiden wicket for two of those debutants in Mark Wood and David Willey.
Ireland lost Paul Stirling first, run out by a direct hit from Yorkshire wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, as the opener failed to make it to the non-striker’s end.
Captain William Porterfield then chopped on to the pace of Wood, and Niall O’Brien edged Yorkshire’s Tim Bresnan to debutant James Vince at first slip.
Andrew Balbirnie went to drive left-armer Willey but was very well held at second slip by Jason Roy, another debutant in this format along with Surrey’s Zafar Ansari.
Play continued through half an hour of rain but eventually became too heavy, much to the disappointment of a near 10,000 sell-out.