England will announce their first Test squad of the summer on Saturday. The chairman of selectors, Geoff Miller, will not be required to learn new lines.
All four members of the panel and several other ECB honchos, including the new consultant, Andrew Strauss, were in Leicester yesterday for a strategy meeting. It is highly improbable that they were discussing imminent changes or new introductions. There is, for the moment, no urgency.
The winter went reasonably well. An epic triumph in India was followed by a drawn series in New Zealand. The players who were there will be entrusted with seeing off the Kiwis at home, starting at Lord’s next Thursday with the first of two Tests.
Before the recent tour, there might have been a thought of resting a bowler or two now with the gruelling duel campaign against Australia ahead. But that was before New Zealand competed so ferociously.
It would not only be disrespectful of England to pick a weakened side now, it would be downright daft. New Zealand are capable of taking advantage of any deficiency. The likelihood is they will pick a squad of 13, though given the selectors’ baffling adherence to secrecy, it could be 12 or 14.
With Kevin Pietersen injured, the top six will include two young Yorkshire batsmen, Joe Root, 22, and Jonny Bairstow, 23. The two may be playing for one place come the Ashes, assuming Pietersen’s knee loses its bruises.
Root played assertively yesterday when the Lions replied to New Zealand’s total of 285. He and Michael Carberry both scored fifties, Root raising his with a six. Having, as Lions captain, asked them to bat, he would have been relieved that they lost their last seven wickets for 74 runs.
Toby Roland-Jones finished with four wickets without assembling a polished spell, Chris Woakes was neat and efficient, Graham Onions does not look to be quite at his best. Hamish Rutherford’s innings was ended on 126 by a direct hit by Woakes at mid-off.
Onions is likely to stay ahead of Woakes in the pecking order, with Tim Bresnan returning to the squad after missing the New Zealand leg of the winter. Neither is likely to play in the Test. Graeme Swann, who, like Bresnan, has had shoulder surgery, may not bowl much but he needs to play. England cannot afford to mess about again by leaving him out.
Root’s innings yesterday was a continuation of his good form this summer, his previous first-class scores being 49, 182 and 236. Dropped at slip by Brendon McCullum when he was 23, he must feel he can do no wrong at present. Carberry, picked again for the Lions at 32, has never failed them, making a century against New Zealand in 2008 and 72 not out in a match-winning stand with Root last year.
Probable squad: AN Cook (captain), NRD Compton, IJL Trott, IR Bell, JE Root, JM Bairstow, MJ Prior (wkt), GP Swann, SCJ Broad, JM Anderson, ST Finn, TT Bresnan, G Onions.