There was the sense yesterday of a new era dawning in English cricket. Jonny Bairstow, the 22-year-old Yorkshire batsman, was chosen to play in his first Test in the opening match of the series against West Indies, which begins at Lord's on Thursday.
He was narrowly preferred by the selectors to James Taylor, of Nottinghamshire, who is 102 days younger. It was Taylor who mustered a hundred for England Lions against the tourists in their final practice match which ended here yesterday, but Bairstow's half-century and his two previous Championship centuries for his county this season persuaded the panel that his time was at hand.
Both players were no doubt part of the initial discussions about the team but their relevance increased as soon as Ravi Bopara suffered a leg injury while playing for Essex at Chelmsford on Friday. Bopara was in the original squad of 13 before he suffered the grade-two tear to his right quadriceps, as he was for the first Test last year when a Lions hundred for Eoin Morgan prompted a change of course.
The poor chap must feel that the world is unfair and he might also agonise that the chance of resuming his Test career has gone forever. Still only 27, his best years should be ahead of him but a new brigade of cricketers is turning the selectors' heads in a different direction. Bopara, desperate to add to his 12 caps, needs to go away and put himself back in the frame according to Geoff Miller, the national selector.
Taylor, too, must score runs for Notts regularly if he is to entice continuing attention. Before his captain's hundred for the Lions the feeling was that he had slipped down the list of candidates. The England batting order is a static entity – four of its members have 328 caps between them – but when Taylor and Bairstow were assembling a partnership of 106 against West Indies on Friday the sentiment was universally shared that here was the future and that both could have durable Test careers.
Miller said: "We had a long discussion. It was a close call. This does not close the door on James Taylor by any means. I've had a chat with him, told him the decision and the reasons why.
"Jonny's got the nod. He obviously played well against an international attack, but he's been doing well for Yorkshire for two years. But the point is now there are quite a few players knocking on the door"
Bairstow will become the 13th player whose father also appeared in Tests for England. His late father, David, won four caps. Bairstow Jnr was not required to bat a second time yesterday as the Lions cantered home by 10 wickets with Joe Root, another Yorkshireman, scoring 115 not out, which contained 16 fours in its 143 balls.
As if defeat were not bad enough, West Indies had problems with their bowling attack. Kemar Roach, having twisted an ankle, was hit on a hand, and Ravi Rampaul bowled only four overs.
England's squad is predictable, containing five seam bowlers, of whom three will almost certainly play. Miller suggested that Andy Flower, the coach, and Andrew Strauss, the captain, had the option to leave out a batsman, but in the conditions likely to prevail the usual balance of six batsmen, a wicketkeeper batsman, three seamers and a spinner will compose the team.
One of Steve Finn, Tim Bresnan or Graham Onions will accompany Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad. If Onions is the form man, Bresnan is a winner (11 wins from Test appearances) and he played in England's last Test.
England squad: first test
Players' Age and number of Tests
AJ Strauss (capt)35 94
AN Cook 2777
IJL Trott 31 28
KP Pietersen 31 83
IR Bell 30 74
JM Bairstow 22 n/a
MJ Prior (wkt) 30 52
TT Bresnan 27 11
SCJ Broad 25 45
JM Anderson 29 68
ST Finn 23 13
GP Swann 33 41
G Onions 29 8
First test 17-21 May, Lord's
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