England opt for Bopara with focus on future

Vaughan, Bell, Shah and Harmison miss out as fresh names make the Test squad

Under new management, England moved from closed shop to open house yesterday. In picking two debutant seam bowlers and a relative novice to fill the prestigious No 3 batting position they demonstrated a willingness not only to ditch the past but also to insist that performance counts.

Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions were named in a bold squad of 12 for the first Test against West Indies next week, although neither was considered good enough for the 2009 International Performance Squad of 25 players which was picked only three weeks ago. They have been summoned partly because of their early season form, partly because of injuries and team balance, partly because the coach Andy Flower and the captain, Andrew Strauss, are clearly prepared to be flexible. This is the first squad with their stamp on it.

Ravi Bopara will bat at three, preferred to Ian Bell, who has made two hundreds this month, and Michael Vaughan, who was considered by many to have the edge. Bopara deserves this chance but it is a risk because the selectors have rightly selected only five specialist batsmen. In his previous four Tests he has occupied the relative comfort zone of six, from where he scored his maiden Test century against West Indies in Barbados two months ago.

The squad is as much about the personalities whom England have excluded as it is those who have been selected. There is no place for Vaughan, Bell, Owais Shah or Stephen Harmison. For three of them it could spell the end of their international careers although the national selector, Geoff Miller, sweetened the bitter pill of omission.

"Bell has to continue playing like he has been," he said. "It's about technique, ability and character for him. He's said that the next opportunity he gets he's going to make sure he stays in the Test squad. That's what we're looking for.

"Vaughan has played well in pre-season, he's not got the big scores that are necessary but he's still part of the framework. Steve Harmison is one of the few bowlers who can snap it up to over 90mph. We need Steve to be bowling like that. I have rung Owais and had a word and will sit him down when he gets home from the IPL."

The truth is that others are now in possession, which is always nine tenths of sporting law. Vaughan, Harmison and particularly Shah will have to perform wonders to return. There may be sentimental attachment to Vaughan as an Ashes-winning captain but he is 34 and teams have to move forward.

There is a feeling that Harmison has had enough chances. If he could prove the sceptics wrong it would be cause for jubilation because 90mph practitioners who extract bounce remain exceptional. Shah blew his chance in the Caribbean earlier this year. A player of Bell's gifts should return but he may have to wait because Flower will not be easily persuaded he is ready again.

Although Onions and Bresnan have leapfrogged an array of seamers, they have been picked for different reasons. The season may be in its infancy but Onions matured into it more quickly than others. He was extremely impressive in taking eight wickets for Durham against Yorkshire last week.

Bresnan was on parade in that match, when all four days were watched by the selector, James Whittaker. It is possible to infer therefore that he must have spoken enthusiastically about both. Bresnan took three wickets, bowled plenty of overs and acquitted himself well with the bat.

Without Andrew Flintoff, England were doubtless keen not to have a tail that fell away too sharply. Matt Prior has it in him to become a sterling No 6 but Bresnan, who has three first-class centuries, can provide a fillip to the lower middle order.

The attack will be based on accuracy and swing rather than pace. Flower is a fan of Ryan Sidebottom, who made his comeback for Nottinghamshire yesterday, mainly because of the different angles he offers with his left-arm swing. But Bresnan and Onions have been given a wonderful opportunity.

There was a further mild surprise in the selection of two spinners, which is an indication of the way that the new management is thinking. Two spinners in May may seem daft but Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar operated well together in Trinidad last month. Their time as a pair will come.

Bopara has probably benefited from the fact that Flower knows his game from their days together at Essex. There were many occasions on which Flower batted at the other end and saw at close quarters the extent of an outrageous talent. The selectors, as with Onions and Bresnan, have decided that it was time to find out more. The shop is closed no longer.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power