Angus Fraser: Outstanding Bopara and Swann reward selectors' bravery

Comment

England's selectors rarely receive plaudits but they should be congratulated for the team they picked for the first Test against the West Indies.

It would have been easy for the group to return to the centrally contracted quartet of Michael Vaughan, Ian Bell, Stephen Harmison and Monty Panesar, decisions that would have helped the same group justify the awarding of these lucrative deals. But they chose to be bold and go for inexperience, and it paid off. Picking Ravi Bopara, Graham Onions, Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann ahead of their more celebrated contemporaries was shrewd for several reasons. By omitting Vaughan, Bell, Harmison and Panesar, the two Andys – Strauss and Flower – have given the team a much-needed kick up the backside. For too long a central contract seemed to guarantee selection. That is no longer the case.

The presence of Bopara, Onions, Bresnan and Swann has also given the England team a more vibrant, energetic and youthful appearance. The enthusiasm and excitement of these players have rubbed off on the team's more seasoned campaigners.

The first Test, as the rows of empty seats at Lord's have shown, has not grabbed the public's attention. The weather, as it normally is at this time of the year, has been cold and unwelcoming, and there is a good chance that the Test may have felt like just another game to those players who have competed in bigger and better series in a more cricket-friendly climate.

For the four greenhorns, however, it has been a big match, a game in which they would have been desperately keen to impress. The Test has offered Strauss, the England captain; Flower, the team director; and the selectors the chance to see what Bresnan and Onions are like, how they handle the big occasion, and whether they are the sort of characters they want in their dressing room.

The brevity of the match meant that Bresnan had limited opportunity to shine on the field, but he must be persevered with. Andrew Flintoff's days as a Test player are numbered and a new all-rounder needs to be found. Bresnan will never be Flintoff but if England are to play five bowlers against Australia, a couple of them must be able to bat.

Fortune has gone Onions' way in this Test and match figures of 7 for 102 slightly flatter him. Sterner challenges lie ahead for the fast bowler and it is only after long hard days on pristine pitches against more determined and skilful batsmen that a true assessment of his quality can be judged. Still,he has potential, a five-wicket haul on debut is a wonderful feat, a performance that should fill him with confidence for some time.

The real England stars, however, were Bopara and Swann. The pair are bright, enthusiastic and mischievous. Both give the impression that there is no place in the world they would rather be than on a cricket field. It is an approach that shines through in their cricket and they are a joy to watch. Each impressed on England's tour of the West Indies and only injury will prevent them lining up against Australia in Cardiff on 8 July. The win at Lord's does not suddenly mean that all England's winter problems are solved and that they are now favourites to win the Ashes. The West Indies have been poor this week, a shadow of the determined team that regained the Wisden Trophy in the Caribbean two months ago.

Even so, Flower and Strauss will be delighted with what they have seen. In the West Indies, the pair took note of the problems that existed in the England dressing room and they would have had a major influence on the team that took to the field at Lord's. Flower and Strauss have shown that they are not afraid of making tough decisions and their judgement should continue to be supported by the selectors.

Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Sport
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballArsenal vs QPR match report
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
i100
Sport
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all