Monty Panesar's stock took an unexpected rise yesterday when he was named in England's 16-man squad for next month's Commonwealth Bank one-day series, while Steve Harmison's fell a little further when he announced his retirement from the limited-over game.
Michael Vaughan will join Panesar in the squad as soon as he has proved he is fit to play in the triangular tournament against Australia and New Zealand. However, the selectors have delayed naming their one-day captain until the fifth Test against Australia is completed. It is a sensible move. Nominating Vaughan now, even though he seems destined to captain England for the first time in a year, could affect Andrew Flintoff's mindset in the final two Tests in Melbourne and Sydney. The selectors would also look foolish if his troublesome knee flared up between now and the first limited-over match on 9 January.
Panesar's elevation will put a smile on the face of his fans but there is a certain irony about his selection. Three weeks ago, the spinner was overlooked for the Test side because his batting and fielding were unreliable but now, in a form of the game where these two skills are even more crucial, he is being considered as a World Cup prospect. If Ashley Giles was still in Australia, Panesar would not have been picked but he could yet prove to be an inspired selection. The 24-year-old is a high-quality bowler and, as in Test cricket, he is more likely to put in a match-winning performance with the ball than Giles or Jamie Dalrymple.
"Monty Panesar's experience of one-day cricket is limited," admitted David Graveney, the chairman of selectors. "But he has shown he is comfortable on the international stage and we view his selection as a bold, attacking move which will strengthen our ability to take wickets."
Harmison's decision will surprise very few of those who travel regularly with England. The fast bowler's form in one-day cricket has been disappointing and he does not really enjoy this form of the game. At the end of each tour, he constantly seems to be trying to get home and by quitting he can now spend more time with his family.
"After careful consideration and having taken advice from several people who have been close to me throughout my career, I have decided to retire from one-day international cricket with immediate effect," Harmison said. "This has been a difficult decision but I want to play at the highest level for as long as I can and believe concentrating on Test match cricket is the best way forward for me."
The frantic nature of one-day cricket will give Vaughan's knee a severe test. If he does not come through unscathed, his career may be over. "Michael has been included in the squad subject to fitness," Graveney said. "He has made excellent progress with his recovery, but we feel that it would not be appropriate to announce the captaincy at this stage, and will delay the announcement until after the Test series."
Chris Tremlett has been included ahead of Stuart Broad while Rikki Clarke and Michael Yardy have been dropped from England's squad at the Champions Trophy.
England squad: M P Vaughan (Yorkshire), age 32, one-day caps 74; A J Strauss (Middlesex) 29, 61; I R Bell (Warwickshire) 22, 26; P D Collingwood (Durham) 30, 103; K P Pietersen (Hampshire) 26, 41; A Flintoff (Lancashire) 29, 105; E C Joyce (Middlesex) 28, 3; J W M Dalrymple (Middlesex) 25, 14; C M W Read (Nottinghamshire, wkt) 28, 33; P A Nixon (Leicestershire, wkt) 36, 0; S I Mahmood (Lancashire) 25, 15; J Lewis (Gloucestershire) 31, 8; L E Plunkett (Durham) 21, 16; C T Tremlett (Hampshire) 25, 3; M S Panesar (Northamptonshire) 24, 0; J M Anderson (Lancashire) 24, 53.