The possibility of Mark Ramprakash, less than a month shy of his 40th birthday, playing in the decisive Ashes Test at The Oval next week grew yesterday when he declared his availability and Geoff Miller, the national selector, admitted he would come under consideration.
Ramprakash said he would "cherish and savour" being involved against Australia and claimed that his experiences in Celebrity Come Dancing have better equipped him to deal with the pressures of competing at the highest level.
With Ravi Bopara failing again yesterday – he lasted just seven balls for Essex at Lord's – the likelihood of England seeking an alternative at No 3 increases. Kent's Rob Key, like Ramprakash, is in form and has more recently been involved in the national set-up – he was part of the Twenty20 World Cup squad – but nobody can match the Surrey batsman for sheer weight of runs over the last few years. This season he is averaging over 100 in the Championship, better even than Jonathan Trott who was called up on the back of his domestic form.
"I've been strongly linked with England, so I've been there before – but I always hoped my performances will do my talking," Ramprakash told Sky Sports News. "I've not spoken to Geoff Miller but I'm available. It's a wonderful showpiece occasion we've got on our hands, for it all to come down to this game now ... I think any player would accept that challenge and cherish and savour being in that match, for the rest of your career."
Ramprakash played the last of his 52 Tests in 2002. He averages a modest 27.3, although in 12 Tests against Australia that improves to 42 and in his last appearance against them, at The Oval in 2001, he made one of his two Test centuries.
"A lot's happened since I played my last Test at 32 in New Zealand," said Ramprakash. "That was a difficult trip. I struggled a bit. But so did a lot of the players – there were some juicy pitches there. A line was put through my name at that stage, but I feel I've improved as a player."
Ramprakash's failure to translate undoubted ability into consistent success for England has been repeatedly put down to mental rather than technical failings, but he claims that no longer holds true. And his success in winning Celebrity Come Dancing in 2006 has had its part to play.
"People still perceive me as if it's 1995," he said. "But people constantly evolve and develop, and I'm no different. If I'd known 10 years ago what I know now there's no question I'd be in a better frame of mind to approach Test cricket. I've had 14 weeks in a high-profile reality TV show bubble, which was a great experience, as well as the cricket – where I've looked to improve and learn."
Miller believes the selectors have to balance the importance of this Test as a one-off with the long term evolution of the team. They will "discuss" Ramprakash, he told Cricinfo.
"We have a continuity angle as far as selection policy is concerned and we try to stick to that," said Miller. "But we do want to win this series, which is a matter of winning this game in a one-match situation, so it's a very difficult equation as [is the case with] all selection policies. But we don't just make changes for the sake of making changes."
Ashes watch: The contenders
*Heading for the Oval
Alastair Cook (Essex): Looked disconsolate to be given lbw for four, pad-bat when pushing half forward. Is safe enough but a few runs would be timely indeed.
Ryan Sidebottom (Notts): Three good Warwickshire wickets – including Ian Bell – continued his late run of form and should at least be in the squad.
Rob Key (Kent): One catch on a quiet day in the field, but, with runs in the bank, his chances improve ever more with the continued failings of others.
Graham Onions (Durham): No wickets against Lancashire but will be in south London come Thursday.
*Waiting by the phone
Ian Bell (Warwicks): Did little to improve his prospects falling to fellow contender Sidebottom having faced all of six balls.
Jonathan Trott (Warwicks): Earned his call on the back of his domestic form, but made only 16 yesterday. Chance missed.
*Staying at home
Ravi Bopara (Essex): Made a paltry one yesterday against Middlesex and a big innings second time around may not even be enough to save his Ashes place now.
Owais Shah (Middlesex): Witnessed events at Lord's from third slip for much of the day and likely to have a watching brief next week as well.
Stephen Moore (Worcestershire): A second failure against Sussex means more time with the Lions rather than the Three Lions.Reuse content