Broad set to get a Test breather
And now, after the glory of the World Twenty20, comes the start of the home international summer.
Bring on Bangladesh, and please stop yawning. In any context, a two-match Test series, plus three one-day internationals, against the weakest of the so-called senior cricketing brethren is like shoving a damp squib in the faces of cricket followers. Coming in the wake of the deeds in the Caribbean, where England completed an improbably handsome triumph last Sunday, it is also rubbing their noses in it.
The first Test begins at Lord's next Thursday for which an England squad of 12 will be named tomorrow. There is unlikely to be much of a buzz in St John's Wood High Street on the way to the ground and of jostling at the North Gate to gain entrance there will be none.
If there is intrigue, it will be in the composition of England's team. There are heavy hints that players will be rested after the rigours of a heavy winter and there can be no more appropriate time to do it. One player to whom that does not apply is their captain, Andrew Strauss, who did tour either Bangladesh or the West Indies (he no longer plays T20). After seven championship matches for Middlesex he should gallop through the Grace Gates next week like a Derby winner.
Bangladesh look weak to the point of being insipid as their defeat against England Lions in Derby this week all too clearly demonstrated. If they are without their estimable captain, Shakib-al-Hasan, a victim of chicken pox, for the first Test and their hard-hitting best batsman, Tamim Iqbal, who has a lingering hand injury, their troubles will multiply quickly.
It seems that Stuart Broad will be given the match, probably the series, off after a heavy winter and serious consideration should be given to asking Paul Collingwood to take a break. Both have played the majority of England's matches this winter – Collingwood, indeed, has missed only one of the 23 internationals, the second T20 against South Africa.
At the fag end of last summer, Collingwood was worn out and if the verdict that he looked like a cricketer on the slide was well wide of the mark, no chances should be taken with him. England have a plethora of cricket in the next year which takes in an Ashes series and a World Cup (of the old- fashioned 50-over variety) and they will need him and Broad as fresh as they can be.
"We are definitely looking at it," said Geoff Miller, the chairman of selectors. "We have got to make sure our players and particularly those who feature in all forms of the game are kept fit and healthy and the timing has got to be right as well."
There is, as it happens, no time like the present. Wisdom, which the selectors have suddenly obtained in abundance in the wake of their inspired choices for the World Twenty20, suggests that both Broad and Collingwood should have a fortnight off. It then has to be decided, as always, whether England use four bowlers or five, five batsmen or six. The suspicion is that they will need five bowlers to take 20 Australian wickets often enough to win the Ashes next winter, so they may as well grow accustomed to it now.
But such a format would almost certainly be needless on English pitches at this time of year, given the opposition. Equally, some of the batsmen, especially Ian Bell and Alastair Cook, have been struggling on early-season pitches on which no heavy roller is now allowed after play starts.
Ravi Bopara, an occasional bowler for Essex (though it should be remembered that he bowled 270 overs in 2008 and took 28 wickets), took seven wickets for the Lions against Bangladesh at Derby.
If Collingwood is rested and six batsmen is the preferred method, Bopara may have a chance of a recall, though his only first-class match of the summer was that at Derby when he made 12 and 28. Michael Carberry, called up in the winter, was injured for the Lions match. An inspired choice would be Andrew Gale, the new captain of Yorkshire, scorer of two hundreds already this season and among the runs for the Lions. And these days, the selectors are inspired.
Probable Lord's Squad
*A J Strauss (capt), A N Cook, I J L Trott, K P Pietersen, I R Bell, A W Gale, M J Prior (wkt), T T Bresnan, G P Swann, J M Anderson, R J Sidebottom, S T Finn
First Test: 27-31 May (Lord's)
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