The decision of Steve Harmison, who was in the side that claimed the Ashes at The Oval barely six weeks ago, to tell the selectors that he did not wish to be a "bit-part" player for England backfired spectacularly yesterday when the pace bowler was left out of the forthcoming squad for the tour of South Africa. His international career is seemingly at an end.
The national selector, Geoff Miller, said that the England door is still open for Harmison but it is hard not to feel that the snub was accompanied by a loud slamming sound. The 30-year-old has paid the price for the terrible inconsistency that has dogged him since 2004 – when he was the world's premier paceman – and his decision to make himself unavailable for the 2010-11 Ashes tour. But also, as Miller admitted, Harmison's reluctance to fight for his place – he said he would consider retiring from international cricket if England did not assure him he would be more than a part-time player – counted against him.
The beneficiary of Harmison's fall appears to be his fellow Durham quick Liam Plunkett (below) who returns to an England squad for the first time since 2005. Ravi Bopara, who had such a disappointing summer after promising so much in the West Indies early in the year, was left out of both the one-day and Test squads, as was Owais Shah, who stuttered his way through the recent run of limited-over matches.
"I understand what he is saying," Miller said of Harmison, "that there is no point in him going out [to South Africa] as an experienced player and carrying drinks. But he has to fight for his place just like everyone else, and perform and get into the side on quality and ability. We can't guarantee that he's going to be a player out there. Although it didn't completely go against him, it was part of the discussion.
"His performances, over the last two or three tours, have not mirrored what he was capable of," Miller added. "We had to keep an eye not only on the present day, but on the future. Steve did not want to tour Australia in 2010-11, so we had to think about that.
"So consequently, and unfortunately for Steve, he has not been selected. We have got to keep the conveyor belt working and know what Steve is capable of doing, and yes, we have to move on to think about Australia in 2010."
The spinner Monty Panesar is the other notable absentee from the squads but Kevin Pietersen was included despite his ongoing recovers after an Achilles operation. "He is very optimistic," Miller said. "It has been a big injury and a big rehab. There might be a problem for the Twenty20, but he is confident he will get there for some of the one-dayers."
Jonathan Trott, like Pietersen raised in South Africa so sure to be afforded a warmish welcome in his homeland, is in both squads after his Oval heroics with the bat.
The search for "the next Andrew Flintoff" starts here and Luke Wright is the first to have the moniker thrust upon him. The 24-year-old, a regular in the one-day side, moves up to the Test squad, a leap also made by Surrey wicketkeeper Steven Davies, and Yorkshire's leg-spinner Adil Rashid.
"Calling up Luke is not like-for-like for Andrew Flintoff," Miller insisted. "Luke is an unfazed character and is willing to learn. He has had some good performances for Sussex. We are looking for him to develop that in both the Test and one-day arena."
Alastair Cook has been recalled to the one-day squad as has Lancashire's quick bowler Sajid Mahmood.
First Test Possible team
First Test v South Africa (Centurion, 16 December): AJ Strauss (Middlesex, capt), AN Cook (Essex, vice-captain), IR Bell (Warwickshire), KP Pietersen (Hampshire), PD Collingwood (Durham), MJ Prior (Sussex, wkt), LJ Wright (Sussex) SCJ Broad (Nottinghamshire), GP Swann (Notts), JM Anderson (Lancashire), G Onions (Durham)
England in South Africa: Squads and itinerary
A J Strauss (Middlesex, captain), A N Cook (Essex, vice-captain), J M Anderson (Lancashire), I R Bell (Warwickshire), S C J Broad (Nottinghamshire), P D Collingwood (Durham), S M Davies (Surrey, wicketkeeper), G Onions (Durham), K P Pietersen (Hampshire), L E Plunkett (Durham), M J Prior (Sussex, wkt), A U Rashid (Yorkshire), R J Sidebottom, G P Swann (both Notts), I J L Trott (Warwicks), L J Wright (Sussex) (right).
Strauss (capt), Anderson, T T Bresnan (Yorks), Broad, Collingwood, Cook, J L Denly (Kent), S I Mahmood (Lancs), E J G Morgan (Middlesex), Onions, Pietersen, Prior, Rashid, Swann, Trott, Wright.
1 November England squad arrives
6 Nov President's X1 (50 overs; Bloemfontein)
8 Nov President's X1 (50 overs; Kimberley)
10 Nov South Africa A (20 overs, d/n; Bloemfontein)
13 Nov 1st Twenty20 international (d/n; Johannesburg)
15 Nov 2nd T20 (Centurion)
17 Nov South Africa A (50 overs, d/n; Potchefstroom)
20 Nov 1st One Day International (d/n; Johannesburg)
22 Nov 2nd ODI (Centurion)
27 Nov 3rd ODI (d/n; Cape Town)
29 Nov 4th ODI (Port Elizabeth)
4 December 5th ODI (d/n; Durban)
9-10 Dec SA Airways XI (East London)
11-12 Dec SA Airways XI (East London)
16-20 Dec 1st Test (Centurion)
26-30 Dec 2nd Test (Durban)
3-7 January 2010 3rd Test (Cape Town)
14-18 Jan 4th Test (Johannesburg)
19 Jan England squad departsReuse content