Tremlett earns call as England's big Ashes hope

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The Independent Online

England's selectors announced their first squad of the summer yesterday when they revealed the 25 cricketers they hope will regain the Ashes. The England development squad will be the easiest and least contentious squad the selectors are likely to pick this year, and only 14 of those named stand a realistic chance of playing in the first Test against Bangladesh on 26 May.

England's selectors announced their first squad of the summer yesterday when they revealed the 25 cricketers they hope will regain the Ashes. The England development squad will be the easiest and least contentious squad the selectors are likely to pick this year, and only 14 of those named stand a realistic chance of playing in the first Test against Bangladesh on 26 May.

But the list does give an indication of a pecking order on the fringe. Take Chris Tremlett for example. Sajid Mahmood, the Lancashire fast bowler, made his England one-day debut last summer, and went on the winter A tour of Sri Lanka. The pair are similar bowlers, both over 6ft 6in, but Tremlett's form has pushed him ahead as a potential replacement for Stephen Harmison, should he get injured.

"Chris has started the season well for Hampshire," said David Graveney, the chairman of selectors. "He is now back to full fitness after a frustrating period with injuries, and his style of 'hit-the-deck' bowling can provide useful variation in any attack."

Tremlett is the only member of the squad yet to have any involvement with the full England set-up, but he is sure to benefit from working with the likes of Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Andrew Flintoff and Troy Cooley, the England bowling coach. The 23 year-old has been talked about as a potential England bowler for a couple of years and he could make his international debut during the NatWest one-day series which precedes five much-anticipated Test matches against Australia.

"I had always hoped to catch the eye of the selectors but it is a massive boost to know that they are looking at me," he said. "I thought that if I carried on playing well I might get selected but when it happens it still comes as a big shock."

This squad also sees Graeme Swann return. Until he was selected for England A last winter the off-spinning all-rounder must have wondered whether he would ever be consideredfor England again. Swann's off-field behaviour on England's 1999/2000 tour of South Africa failed to impress Duncan Fletcher, the England coach.

"Being picked is something I have been striving for," said Swann. "However, there is no point being in the 25-man squad to then just rest on my laurels. This is where the hard work starts and I've now got to pull out all the stops and do what I can to make it into the England side."

If there was a surprise, it was the omission of Matt Prior. The Sussex wicketkeeper had an excellent England A tour and many considered this, along with good early-season form, had placed him ahead of Chris Read as the logical replacement for Geraint Jones. But Prior's involvement in the sledging controversy with Shane Warne would not have done his cause any good. Chris Adams, the Sussex captain, should have kept his views of the incident to himself because both he and Prior came out of it looking hypocritical and soft.

The selectors are keen to emphasise that the unveiling of this squad does not mean the England team is a closed shop. But through naming it, Fletcher now has the right to withdraw players from their county commitments so that they can join in special sessions with the full England side.

Fletcher said: "The introduction of a development squad will allow me to follow the progress of individuals from an earlier stage in their career and, in conjunction with the counties, assign specialist coaches where necessary to help develop their game.

"Our primary aim is to support and build on what the counties are doing in preparing the next generation of England cricketers."

Selectors' 25-man development squad

M P Vaughan (Yorkshire, capt)*

M E Trescothick (Somerset)*

A J Strauss (Middlesex)*

M A Butcher (Surrey)*

G P Thorpe (Surrey)*

A Flintoff (Lancashire)*

G O Jones (Kent, wkt)*

A F Giles (Warwickshire)*

S P Jones (Glamorgan)*

M J Hoggard (Yorkshire)*

S J Harmison (Durham)*

J M Anderson (Lancashire)*

Kabir Ali (Worcestershire)

G Batty (Worcestershire)

V S Solanki (Worcestershire)

P D Collingwood (Durham)

R W T Key (Kent)

I R Bell (Warwickshire)

K P Pietersen (Hampshire)

A G Wharf (Glamorgan)

J Lewis (Gloucestershire)

C T Tremlett (Hampshire)

D Gough (Essex)

C M W Read (Nottinghamshire, wkt)

G P Swann (Nottinghamshire)

*denotes 12-month central contract

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