England have chosen an uncapped Irishman ahead of two players with Test experience to fill the void left by Marcus Trescothick in Australia. Ed Joyce may have made only three one-day international and one Twenty20 appearances for England but the selectors feel that he is better equipped to cope with the demands of touring Australia than Rob Key or Owais Shah.
The selection of Joyce is something of a surprise because to many - including myself - he was the least likely of the three possible replacements to be picked. It was widely felt that Key's ability to open the batting would make him an automatic candidate for Trescothick's spot, and that Shah's performance in Mumbai in April, where he scored 88 and 38, showed he had the temperament for Test cricket.
But Joyce is an intelligent, capable and impressive young man, and he has obviously made a positive impression on Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, during his brief associations with the national side.
The 28-year-old made his one-day debut for England in June, scoring 10 runs in Stormont against Ireland. A couple of days later he sustained a nasty ankle injury while fielding in the Twenty20 international against Sri Lanka and failed to play another game in the series. But on regaining his fitness he was selected for the one-day series against Pakistan, where he replaced Trescothick in the final two matches. Joyce scored just 13 and eight but he was picked for the Champions Trophy, where he did not play a game.
Joyce was also named in the Academy squad, which will provide cover for England's Ashes squad in Perth. The 14-man party set off for Australia last night but Joyce will leave them in Dubai, where he will head for Adelaide, where England begin their final warm-up match tomorrow.
"I'm obviously sad for Marcus but I'm really happy to have got the nod," said Joyce. "Rob and Owais are very good players and have Test experience so they are probably disappointed not to be picked ahead of me. "
Explaining the selectors' decision, David Graveney, the chairman, said: "As we already have other players in the squad who have experience of opening the innings we have decided to choose a replacement who will be able to cover a number of different positions within the order."
Dublin is not a city steeped in cricket history but Joyce comes from a family rich in cricketing stock. Before choosing to qualify for England he had represented Ireland with distinction since 1997. In 14 ICC Trophy games for Ireland he averages 84, but he is not the only member of his family to have played international cricket.
Joyce is one of nine children, five of whom have played cricket for Ireland. Dominick, his younger brother, has played regularly for the Emerald Isle since 2000, the year his older sibling, Augustine, featured in a couple of matches. His two younger sisters, Isobel and Cecelia, are regulars in the Ireland women's side.
Outwardly, Ed appears laid-back and during my time with him at Middlesex I envied his easy-going nature. But this demeanour should fool nobody; inside there is fierce determination and ambition.
During his early days in county cricket he looked uncomfortable against the short ball. The slow, grassy pitches of Ireland meant that he was rarely tested against this type of bowling. But he has worked this aspect of his game out and when he is in full flow he has the grace and touch of a young David Gower.
England have had several tough decisions to make this week, and the final one is likely to be made tonight when they select their side for the final warm-up match, against South Australia. Will it be Monty Panesar or Ashley Giles who fills the spinner's spot? Panesar would be the more positive option, but Fletcher is not known for his adventurousness.Reuse content