England offer Morgan chance to prove stamina for Test arena

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The Independent Online

There is no telling what success will do. Emboldened by triumph in the World Twenty20, England's selectors yesterday chose for the first Test of the summer an Irishman who has not played anything other than limited- overs cricket since last summer, most of which he spent wondering where his next first-class run was coming from.

Yet the inclusion of Eoin Morgan in the squad of 12 for the match against Bangladesh which begins at Lord's on Thursday is both inspired and logical. It was unexpected only because England's coach, Andy Flower, who wields considerable influence in these matters, had told Morgan he must return to county cricket and show he meant business in the longer game. Then he might be in the reckoning for a Test summons.

But it seems that audacity prevailed in the selection room after Morgan's contributions to England's limited- overs successes throughout the winter, which combined adventure, control and a seemingly nerveless ability to read the game and its requirements at any particular time.

"Eoin Morgan has impressed everyone since his inclusion in England's one-day squad and he now has the opportunity to play a role in the Test team," said Geoff Miller, the chairman of selectors. "He has always held ambitions of playing across all forms of the game and we believe he has earned his place in this Test squad."

Morgan, a 23-year-old left-hander, has been picked partly because England have decided to rest two players for the Bangladesh series. Paul Collingwood, whom he will probably replace in a six-man batting line-up, is to have treatment on the chronic shoulder injury he first sustained while trying to take a catch off his own bowling in Sri Lanka three years ago.

It is a pity for Collingwood because his appearance at Lord's would have been treated as the return of the conquering hero after he led England to victory in the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean. Another member of that team, Stuart Broad, will also miss the Bangladesh series to undergo what is described as an intensive strengthening programme.

The team management has grown increasingly concerned that Broad is not filling out sufficiently. Put bluntly, he is too thin, the reverse of the physical condition that usually affects players who are omitted from England squads. Samit Patel, Broad's Nottinghamshire team-mate, has been regularly overlooked for being too fat.

Apart from their physical well-being, the rest, albeit for only a fortnight, will give both players a chance to freshen their minds. As members of England's team across all three formats of the game they have been with them on three continents in the past six months.

Ajmal Shahzad, uncapped like Morgan, is included in a Test squad for the first time ahead of the left-arm seamer, his fellow Yorkshireman Ryan Sidebottom. That might just mean that Sidebottom's Test career has reached the end of its road at the age of 32.

If England decide to play six batsmen, Shahzad will probably not be in the starting XI, with Steve Finn likely to make his home Test debut. Finn, only 20, was fast-tracked into the Test side in Bangladesh two months ago and has had an impressive start to the summer with Middlesex, where his natural gifts and the tutelage of two splendid former bowlers, in the county's cricket director Angus Fraser and bowling coach Richard Johnson, can only have hastened his development.

In sticking with Finn now, England are looking not especially at Lord's and Bangladesh in May but Australia and Brisbane in November, when the Ashes series begins. Tim Bresnan, their most improved player, could well also be part of those projections.

Morgan will be the first Dubliner to play in a Test match for England since Sir Timothy O'Brien appeared for the fifth and final time in 1896. He has prodigious gifts and while it was correct to call him up it means that the last two men introduced into England's Test batting line-up learnt their cricket in another country. Jonathan Trott, first picked for the decisive Ashes Test last August, was brought up in South Africa. It is also notable that five of the squad play for counties in the Second Division of the Championship.

It seems Flower must either have changed his mind or been persuaded that Morgan was worth a go now. It clearly troubled him that Morgan was short of runs in the four-day game last summer when he averaged 24 and finished with 6, 5, 30, 4, 8, 16 and 17.

In March, after Morgan had played a breathtaking innings to ensure that England won a one-day match against Bangladesh that they should have lost, and in so doing became the first man to score a limited-overs hundred for two countries, Flower said: "As far as a Test career goes, he will have to display for us that he can score heavy runs at first-class cricket, which he hasn't done enough of yet. I have had a chat with Eoin about this and he knows what is expected."

He certainly knows now.

First test squad

......... Age......... Test caps

A J Strauss (capt) ......... 33......... 71

A N Cook ......... 25......... 54

I J L Trott ......... 29......... 7

K P Pietersen......... 29......... 60

I R Bell ......... 28......... 55

E J G Morgan ......... 23......... 0

M J Prior ......... 28......... 29

T T Bresnan ......... 25......... 4

G P Swann ......... 31......... 18

J M Anderson......... 27......... 46

S T Finn ......... 21......... 2

A Shahzad......... 24......... 1

First Test Lord's, starting on Thursday.

Second Test Old Trafford, 4-8 June.

One-day matches 8, 10, 12 July.