Selectors bowled over for choice but they must be bold

This needs to become Miller's team and if promotion for Onions and Co means the end for others then so be it

Sooner or later, selectors have to select. This means taking bold or unkind decisions for the good of the team that they are picking and ultimately for their own good. It need not entail sweeping changes (indeed something has usually gone badly wrong if it does, witness plenty of episodes), but a tweak here, a turn there.

In announcing the squad for the first two Test matches of the summer against New Zealand, the newly installed four-man England selection panel rocked no boats. They named the team who won last time out against the Kiwis in Napier, plus Matthew Hoggard. Revolutionary it was not. Nor, it could be said, evolutionary.

This was probably to be expected, if not quite a stone-cold certainty. The new chairman of selectors, Geoff Miller, rejoicing under the official title of national selector, which gives off the air of something mildly sinister, learned his trade at the feet of the former chairman, David Graveney, of whom he speaks with great affection.

Graveney's mantra was continuity, something that should always be remembered when his tenure is discussed. It is one thing for selectors to talk of continuity, quite another for them to exercise it. Graveney designated his men and, largely, ploughed a steady furrow thereafter.

Under Miller this policy will probably continue. But he knows he cannot drive thousands upon thousands of miles around the country looking at county cricketand end up doing nothing.

It may never be known (given Miller's apparent determination to take discretion and the art of saying nowt to new levels, which is fine as long as he does it his way all the time) whether he secretly wanted to stamp his own imprint on the side early. Back in 1994, for instance, Ray Illingworth, quite obviously intent on showing who was boss, immediately picked the debutants Craig White and Steve Rhodes, and changed the balance of the side from a four-man bowling attack to five. In 1969, Alec Bedser, faced with the dilemma of picking a new captain because Colin Cowdrey was injured, went for the veteran but untried Illingworth, which 18 months later led to the Ashes being regained.

But the first national selector is biding his time. If there was nothing contentious in this squad, it was still possible to wonder where his thoughts were heading with regard to the bowlers. Their one nod towards boldness was jettisoned when Andrew Flintoff was injured two days before the squad was announced. It seems that Flintoff would have played as part of a four-man attack.

His absence allowed the recallof Matthew Hoggard, at least to the 12. Despite the kind words and the desire to be loyal to a player who helped win back the Ashes, there is circumstantial evidence to hint Hoggard's international days are drawing quietly to a close – which might have been hastened by the broken thumb he sadly sustained playing for Yorkshire on Friday, struck by a Stephen Harmison delivery. In pretty quick succession, Duncan Fletcher, the former coach, commented on Hoggard's diminishing pace (never great) and Michael Vaughan, the captain, while acknowledging his early-season form, was hardly effusive. Hoggard was outbowled in the England Lions match against New Zealand by both Chris Tremlett and Graham Onions. There is a mood that other bowlers have overtaken Hoggard. Tremlett is too prone to injury – another back spasm dawned last week – but in three Tests against India last summer his menacing bounce gave him the look and feel of an international bowler.

Onions, learning all the time, took eight wickets to help Durham beat Yorkshire, a much better return Harmison's. Onions has developed real zip. These are good problems to have. But selectors must resolve them, not stand by hoping they might sort themselves out.

Perhaps on this occasion they got lucky. If Flintoff had played – which would indeed have been bold – the probability is that James Anderson would have been omitted from the XI. In the event, Anderson played, and the one who showed up at Lord's was the one who bowled straight and with enough late swing to bother good players. He and the engaging Ryan Sidebottom, a deserved recipient of the England player of the year award, look good together.

It was fascinating to hear Anderson dissect his form this week. For 20 candid minutes it was almost a long dark night of the soul. Here was a young man who knew that he bowled like a god one match and a dog the next and was desperately trying to address the inconsistency.

Tellingly, he let slip that his bowling action was back to where it was when he started out as a fiery young thing from Lanca-shire with the world at his feet (from Burnley thirds to the World Cup in a year, as Nasser Hussain famously put it). So the eyes are pointing to the pitch at the point of delivery, as if he were a man looking for a lost tenner.

Anderson had spent two or three years amending this to avoid long-term injury but he got injured anyway. If he can trade three or four good years for an injury somewhere down the line he might consider it good business. He offered a brief insight into a bowler's mind, how small margins can tear you apart. But he knew, he insisted, what he was capable of. The selectors might think that he deserves a run in the side.

There are some skilful bowlers around now – upliftingly, the master of reverse swing, Simon Jones, although still in the embryonic stage of career rebuilding, twice took five wickets in an innings last week – and Miller and his men may be on the right side of being spoiled for choice. Sooner or later, there has to be Miller's team.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back