Miller puts off squad selection for South Africa

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The Independent Online

England have postponed selection of their Test and one-day squads for this winter's full tour of South Africa until after the Champions Trophy, thereby sparing themselves the possibility of embarrassment on several fronts.

National selector Geoff Miller was due to announce both parties on Wednesday, even as Andrew Strauss and his team were preparing for their opening Champions Trophy match against Sri Lanka in Johannesburg 48 hours later. But common sense has kicked in with the decision date being put back a fortnight or so.

England's Test squad for a four-match series in South Africa during December and January should not take too much picking, given this summer's Ashes success. But two Twenty20s and five one-day games come first – and, following all the recent thumpings by Australia, that party needs more thought than ever.

Had Miller and Co stuck to the original plan of making their South Africa tour choices known this week then several members of the Champions Trophy squad could have found themselves out in the cold – hardly a great confidence-booster ahead of group games against the tournament hosts and New Zealand as well as that opening fixture with Sri Lanka.

On the other side of the coin, Miller's panel might have been left with egg on face by a South Africa party discard suddenly finding top form and turning into England's star performer at the Champions Trophy.

There is certain to be at least one change for November's one-day tour, provided Kevin Pietersen recovers sufficiently from Achilles tendon surgery after spending three months on the sidelines. And it is reasonable to assume that Jonathan Trott (certainly) and Ian Bell (possibly) would be in the frame for Champions Trophy selection if England were doing their picking for that tournament now. Competition regulations meant they had to announce a squad of 15 before Trott shot to national prominence by scoring an Ashes century at The Oval.

Changes in personnel can be made where the Champions Trophy is concerned – but for reasons of injury and not form. For example, it was Andrew Flintoff's knee operation, rather than a lack of potency in the pace department, that allowed Graham Onions to join the squad after deadline day.

With Luke Wright now on the mend after having his left big toe crunched by a bowling machine yorker last week and Stuart Broad (knee) expected to be fighting fit again by Friday, England will take their current 15 to Johannesburg tonight. But how many members of that group return to South Africa in a month or so rather depends on performances in the Champions Trophy.

England's odds of 12-1 (and 20-1 with at least one bookmaker) to triumph in the eight-team tournament suggest that not many people are expecting too much out of the ordinary over the next couple of weeks.