Coming off a huge 4-0 ODI series win over Australia, England might have liked a little time off to rest or celebrate. But they have been thrust right back into the scene against the formidable South Africa, who are visiting them for series in all three formats. The first one will be a Test series, which starts at the Oval this Thursday, the 19th.
England’s squad sees some changes made since the 2-0 series win over the West Indies not too long ago, one main entry into the team being that of Ravi Bopara. He hasn’t played Tests for his country foe almost a year now, and will be looking to get into form from the beginning itself.
Bopara is one of the six batsmen in a 13-man squad which also includes Steve Finn and Graham Onions, who can still hope to get Tim Bresnan in as the third seamer. Bopara’s last match was at the same venue, agter he was called onto the team following Jonathan Trott’s injury. Bopara helped in a 4-0 whitewash against India back then.
Eoin Morgan was another batsman who would have surely played for England, but after injuring himself a day before the squad was announced for the series against the West Indies, he has been left out. Jonny Bairstow, who replaced Morgan in that series, did not perform well enough, even though the won 2-0, and has been dropped from this series as well.
England’s national selector Geoff Miller spoke about the selections in a press meet and was quoted saying: “We have played some very good cricket over the last couple of months in all formats to win series against the West Indies and Australia – and after a month of limited-overs cricket, preparations are now under way for what is sure to be a very competitive Test series against South Africa.
“We know we will need to play excellent cricket to win this three-match series, and the squad will be determined to start with a strong performance this week during the first Test and set the tone for the rest of the series.
“Ravi Bopara has worked hard to regain his place in the Test squad, following some injury concerns earlier in the season, and is the only player included who is yet to play a Test match this summer.”
Among bowlers, England seem to have kept their options open by including both Finn and Onions, who played the most recent Test, a rain-hit Test at Edgbaston. They played to match after James Anderson and Stuart Broad were rested, but with the two first-choice bowlers back, the one thing which will be on England coach Andy Flower and team captain Andrew Strauss’ minds will be to pick between Bresnan, Finn and Onions to complete the team.
Miller spoke to a radio show about how he expected good performances from his team, especially Bopara, and was quoted saying: “We always hope for something big from all our players when we select them in the England side and over the last few years they've produced on most occasions. “Yes, we would like to see something big from him, but he's only part of the side so he needs to actually perform to cement his place.
“Jonny Bairstow obviously had a bit of a tough time, we know he's a young and a talented cricketer, that goes without saying, so he just needs to go back to Yorkshire and score some big runs and fight for his place back again,” he added. There have been concerns over the fitness of Bresnan and Graeme Swann, who had a difficult time nursing sore bowling elbows during the last ODIs against Australia, but they seem to be in good shape now.
England test squadAndrew Strauss (captain), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Steven Finn, Graham Onions, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior (wk), Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott.