We've seen the best, what about the rest?

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Most of the party will be familiar. The first 12 names on the visa application form should be those who took part in the series against Australia. True, a winning side must always look to stay on top by being prepared to change but it would be a ridiculously ungrateful nation which was willing to ditch any members of a young side who have just vanquished the world champions.

They will give Simon Jones at least a fortnight to prove his fitness, and his absence may in any event tilt the squad's balance. At least three of the other four tourists are unlikely to cause any eyebrows to be raised. Predictable maybe, but that is the effect of central contracts, of loyalty and of winning, in that order.

Everything else, of course, has changed. The England team that will embark for the sub-continent next month and in the new year when they take on India, will be treated very differently from a side who had been swept aside by Australia. England are the new cocks of the walk and as such will be considered fair, nay vital, game by all other opposition.

"The type of cover is the obvious area for discussion," said David Graveney, the chairman of selectors, after the deed at The Oval but before his panel had held discussions. "We have obvious ideas for the main team and that leaves five spaces for a spare batsman, spare wicketkeeper, spare seam bowler, spare spinner and whatever you use the extra man as.

"Last time we took two batsmen, Robert Key and Paul Collingwood, and that might happen again and it might actually be those personnel. But we need to know a bit more about Simon Jones. Decisions have got to be made on what we cover because you can't cover everything. What is certain is that because of the modern itinerary, the type of person comes very much into it because they might not be involved and have to net, net, net, and maintain enthusiasm and discipline."

Collingwood is a shoo-in on that score and Key will not be far behind. Assuming the groin injury from which he is suffering improves, he should be at least on stand-by. He is the relaxed, laconic sort of character every tour needs.

But two extra seam bowlers are more likely to be preferred. In then would come James Anderson and Chris Tremlett. Anderson has had experience of tour thumb-twiddling and his friendship with Jones is not insignificant. Tremlett has been given all summer to become accustomed to the pre-match rhythms of the dressing room.

The two contentious places, the two that might have made the teacups do more than tinkle, are for the reserve wicketkeeper and the second spinner. It is said, almost glibly these days as though it is a mere bagatelle, that Chris Read is the best wicketkeeper in the country.

Read chose to miss the chance to confirm this by dropping two fairly regulation catches, one to his right, one to his left in the televised Championship match between Nottinghamshire and Kent in Canterbury this week. Thus, for once the whole country could see what his wicketkeeping was like.

One of sport's great truisms is that you are always a better player out of the side than in it. This was doubly unfortunate for Read since the reason given for his not being selected is the quality of his batting. He has scored 659 runs this season in a Championship-contending side at an average of nearly 44. That is above Matt Prior (870 at 34.80) and James Foster (664 at 33.20).

Prior's wicketkeeping will certainly provoke the same debate as that of Geraint Jones and will probably be amplified. Foster might be the best bet, say close observers of the county scene. Prior will probably earn the vote. Read was unfortunate to appear on television when he did but it has ended that particular argument for a while.

If anything, the quality of spin bowlers in England is worse than the quality of wicketkeepers. It is nothing of which to be proud. Projects are in place to alter this but what is needed is the boldness to allow them to bowl and pitches for them to bowl on. That has been so for at least two decades.

So, the selectors were being asked to differentiate between the merits of Graeme Swann (29 wickets at 35.89 and one every 70 balls), Gareth Batty (32 at 35.90, strike-rate 69.7) and Richard Dawson (27 at 40.66, 72.3).

The doosra bearing Alex Loudon was coming up on the outside. The off spinner with the best figures in the country is Shaun Udal (35 at 18.14, 36.9), uncapped at 36. Batty will doubtless be selected because otherwise it would betray the continuity on which the Graveney/ Fletcher empire is based.

It is a reluctant pairing which recent events have ensured will continue for some time to come. The suspicion is that Graveney and Fletcher tolerate one another as colleagues rather than exchange mutual invitations for Sunday tea. Graveney deserves some praise and, for instance, pointed out that he had always backed Collingwood ("I recommended him right at the beginning, he can't take the credit for that one").

But the Ashes series has taken its toll on the chairman of selectors. He resumed smoking during the Trent Bridge run- chase and was still puffing away at The Oval. He had stopped again by the middle of the week. He was pretty pleased that he managed to pick the series result after Lord's and reckoned England would win at Edgbaston. "If we'd lost, it could have gone pear-shaped and I was actually resigned to defeat and looking down the jobs-vacant columns." Things have changed for Graveney as well.

Test squad (probable): M P Vaughan (capt), M E Trescothick, A J Strauss, I R Bell, K P Pietersen, A Flintoff, G O Jones, A F Giles, M J Hoggard, S J Harmison, S P Jones, P D Collingwood, C T Tremlett, J M Anderson, M J Prior, G J Batty.

One-day squad (probable): M P Vaughan (capt), M E Trescothick, A J Strauss, K P Pietersen, A Flintoff, P D Collingwood, G O Jones, A F Giles, D Gough, S J Harmison, S P Jones, O A Shah, J M Anderson, M J Prior.

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