Same again as England say 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'

Fifteen of 16 men who retained Ashes will tour UAE... the only absentee is retired Collingwood

England are likely to take continuity in selection to its ultimate level today. Their squad of 16 players for the three Tests that they will play against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates early next year may include 15 of those who comprised the Ashes party a year ago.

If they were to summon Paul Collingwood from Test retirement (improbable) they could replicate the cadre exactly. As it is, their apparently preferred options will reflect both England's success and how hard it is to break into a winning unit.

Geoff Miller, the chairman of selectors, was habitually coy about his panel's deliberations yesterday. "We will base it on what the side is likely to need to win Test matches out there, based on the five elements – batting, fast bowling, spin bowling, wicketkeeping and fielding," he said.

The only change from the original squad picked to visit Australia last year – and which performed so resoundingly – may well be the replacement of Collingwood by Ravi Bopara. It is possible that Bopara may miss out if one of the young turks being blooded in the England Lions side, effectively the second team, is deemed to have done enough to warrant promotion.

Sooner or later, that must happen but Bopara is the man in possession, having played the last two matches of the summer against India when Jonathan Trott was injured. He neither pulled up trees nor sank without trace but England have come a long way with him and may not yet be ready to start their journey with Jonathan Bairstow, James Taylor or Jos Buttler.

Much, probably all, of what discussion there was, will have focused on the balance of the squad with the conclusion probably that it should be seven batsmen, five seamers, two spinners and two wicketkeepers. The UAE is in so many ways unknown territory – only four Tests have previously taken place in Dubai and Abu Dhabi where England will play – so it will be much wiser to have known quantities in the side.

Ideally England would take three spinners to a place where the pitches are likely to be slow, although, importantly, they do not entirely resemble those on the sub-continent. But England do not have three spinners worthy of the name for the hard grind of Test matches. So two will have to do and two will probably play in the starting XI. Graeme Swann, on whom so much will rest this winter and next when England play four Tests in India, is likely to be accompanied by Monty Panesar, whom he replaced as first choice two years ago.

Panesar has been in Australia playing grade cricket but was also the second spinner in Australia last winter. This time there will be work to do and his 69 Championship wickets for Sussex last summer at 27 runs each were the best in the country by a slow bowler.

It is just conceivable that England will discard the spare batsman or wicketkeeper. But from this distance the likelihood is that they would seek to play a starting XI on pitches where they will not blast out the opposition with five batsmen, with the highly accomplished wicketkeeper Matt Prior at six, three seamers and both their spinners.

Bairstow will certainly have featured in discussions, not only about the seventh batting place but also about the second wicketkeeper. Despite his wonderful start to international cricket when he won for England a match they should have lost at Cardiff in September by scoring 41 from 21 balls (which was followed by a less wonderful continuation in India when he made 49 runs in four innings) the selectors should conclude that he is not yet ready for a Test appointment in either capacity. England need two keepers in case Prior should fall ill on the morning of the match, with the vote probably going to Steve Davies, who was also the deputy on last year's tour.

Davies had a good year with the bat for Surrey after a slow start although a less assured one with the gloves. These things may be difficult to judge but he conceded more byes per innings than any other keeper to have played half his county's championship matches. (The fewest, incidentally, were conceded by Chris Read, who averaged 35 with the bat, but he is part of England's past).

Craig Kieswetter, the one-day incumbent, would be, like Bairstow, a risk in both departments. Davies it may well be then and deservedly so. Touring is tough for wicketkeeping deputies who inevitably have too little work to do.

Davies had an especially torrid time in Australia last year, worrying as he was about his seminal decision to declare publicly his homosexuality. It is his business, it is the 21st century but it remains a tough call for a professional sportsman. The likeable and diffident Davies made it and is a more assertive player for having done so, according to accounts. Eventually, England must evolve but for now there is no need but to stick with what has taken them so far.

Probable squad

AJ Strauss (captain), AN Cook, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, IR Bell, EJG Morgan, MJ Prior (wkt), SCJ Broad, TT Bresnan, GP Swann, JM Anderson, ST Finn, SR Patel, MS Panesar, SM Davies (wkt), CT Tremlett

Pakistan v England - Three Tests: Tues 17 January, Dubai (6am); Weds 25 January, Abu Dhabi (6am); Friday 3 February, Dubai (6am).

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little