Playing IPL 'will not help Morgan win place back'

Flower leaves batsman out of Test squad and questions wisdom of concentrating on T20

Click to follow
The Independent Online

There is a price to pay for failure in English cricket and yesterday Eoin Morgan paid it. The selectors did their duty and dropped him from the squad for the Test series in Sri Lanka which starts next month.

Morgan finished the tour of the United Arab Emirates in dreadful form and only a perverse loyalty to those in situ could have saved him. In 17 innings in all England's matches – warm-up, Test and limited overs – his top score was 31. Something had to give.

The selectors have made two changes for the trip to Sri Lanka. Samit Patel takes Morgan's place, rightly being given a chance to press his claims to a place in the longer game, and James Tredwell is the surprising choice as spin cover, perhaps a reflection on the dearth of quality in the English game.

Morgan may find it difficult to work his way back into the side after such a torrid time of it. He has scored two centuries in his 17 Test matches in two separate spells, the second of which began last summer. The selectors had already picked their side for the first Test when Morgan persuaded them to change their minds by scoring 191 of the choicest runs for England Lions in a tour match – against Sri Lanka.

The player who gave way then was the one who will probably have first chance to take his place now, Ravi Bopara. Andy Flower, England's coach, said of Morgan just before leaving the UAE yesterday: "He's had a tough tour of the UAE, we've been here for two months and it's been hard work for him. He has got some work to do, I think, on his Test game.

"That's going to be quite difficult for him, considering his next cricket is going to be IPL cricket. When he comes back he'll have limited exposure to opportunities to get four-day cricket under his belt so he has got to go away and give some serious thought to his method in Test cricket. I still think he has a very exciting future in Test cricket. He's only 25 and he's a very talented player, a very confident player and a very dangerous player. If he can get his game in order so that the next time he gets a game in Test cricket he can grab it with both hands, then he will fulfil his wishes for his cricket career and England will be a better side for it."

But the next time may not be along soon. Morgan has played 10 successive Tests and Bopara, starting his third career as a Test cricketer, should be given the same chance. There are also several young batsmen whom the selectors cannot always keep confined to the "promising but not ready" portfolio.

Bopara is not a certainty for the No 6 batting spot and Patel, who has shown himself able to handle tough situations at the crease, may be given an opportunity. Patel's attitude to training and diet has perplexed Flower and the rest of the panel, but there is no doubt that the coach rates his ability highly.

"He gets his first chance in the Test squad and will be competing for the No 6 spot with Bopara, and it gives us the option of playing a fifth bowler. In the UAE we played the combination of two quicks and two spinners on pitches conducive to spin and that proved to us that we can take 20 wickets in a Test match with that combination."

The heat and humidity in Sri Lanka are likely to be energy-sapping and England will need more than a fill-in bowler as the fifth option.

Patel could not be the second spinner in an attack of two seamers and two spinners but he could just about support Graeme Swann if the Nottinghamshire tweaker was picked alongside three pace bowlers.

England have proved themselves a formidable bowling unit in all conditions. Tredwell did not disappoint in his only Test match when he took six wickets, but bowling to Bangladesh is a slightly different opposition to having the likes of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene at the other end. Last summer, Tredwell took 42 first-class wickets for Kent in the Second Division of the County Championship.

As a capable cricketer, not a spectacular one, he has earned selection because of the perceived need for an off-spinner. Flower indicated that he would provide cover for Swann in the event of injury or illness. But if Tredwell has to be the lead spinner it could be fun.

Several of the squad will travel to Sri Lanka early to acclimatise not only to the pitches but to the weather. They may need every minute.

Three of a kind: But which one will start instead of Morgan?

Six batsmen, four bowlers

England could stick with the method they used against Pakistan (it didn't work too well, though) and simply replace Eoin Morgan at No 6 with Ravi Bopara, who can bowl.

Five bowlers (with three spinners)

Keep Bopara on the sidelines and move wicketkeeper/batsman Matt Prior up to No 6. Samit Patel, who bowls left-arm spin and is a more-than-handy bat, comes in at No 7.

Five bowlers (with three seamers)

Prior stays at No 6 and Tim Bresnan comes in at No 7, ahead of Stuart Broad at No 8, Graeme Swann at No 9, James Anderson at No 10 and Monty Panesar at No 11.

England squad

Player (county)/Age/Tests

A J Strauss (capt, Middlesex) 34/92

J M Anderson (Lancashire) 29/66

I R Bell (Warwickshire) 29/72

R S Bopara (Essex) 26/12

T T Bresnan (Yorkshire) 27/10

S C J Broad (Notts) 25/44

A N Cook (Essex) 27/75

S M Davies (Surrey) 25/0

S T Finn (Middlesex) 22/12

M S Panesar (Sussex) 29/41

S R Patel (Notts) 27/0

K P Pietersen (Surrey) 31/81

M J Prior (Sussex) 30/50

G P Swann (Notts) 32/39

J C Tredwell (Kent) 30/1

I J L Trott (Warwickshire) 30/26


15-17 Mar Sri Lanka Board XI (Colombo)

20-22 Mar Sri Lanka Cricket Development XI (Colombo)

26-30 Mar First Test (Galle)

3-7 Apr Second Test (Colombo)