Morgan to debut as Collingwood and Broad rested
Andy Flower's stated determination to rest his key players in a bid to avoid burn-out ahead of this winter's Ashes and World Cup became apparent when the squad for next week's first Test against Bangladesh at Lord's was unveiled on Sunday morning. Stuart Broad, the fast bowler with an integral role in all three forms of the game, has been given a break from the front line, while Paul Collingwood - the man who last week lifted the World Twenty20 trophy in Barbados - also gets a rest in order to begin rehabilitation on a long-term shoulder injury.
"We were all delighted and extremely proud of the way the Twenty20 squad performed at the ICC World Twenty20; their success is testament to a great deal of hard work," said national selector Geoff Miller. "The focus now shifts back to the longer form of the game and we look forward to the first npower Test against Bangladesh. We believe we've selected an exciting squad and, with Paul Collingwood and Stuart Broad taking no part in this series, the opportunity arises for a number of younger players to make a mark at Test level."
One of those players is Eoin Morgan, who should make his Test debut for England next week after being included in the squad. Morgan, the rising star of England's limited-overs sides, is a player whose temperament would appear, from his ice-cool approach to one-day run-chases, to be perfectly suited to the cauldron of Test cricket. His first-class record, though, implies a player who hasn't yet transferred his talents to the long-form game, and he has been a virtual stranger to Championship cricket for the past 12 months. His performances in the Tests will thus be an important marker in his development.
"Eoin Morgan has impressed everyone since his inclusion in England's one-day squad and he now has the opportunity to play a role in the Test team," explained Miller. "He has always held ambitions of playing across all forms of the game and we believe he has earned his place in this Test squad."
With Andrew Strauss returning to lead the side for the first time since the tour of South Africa in January, and James Anderson also back in the reckoning having sat on the sidelines during the Caribbean tour, England have been presented with a range of options against a Bangladesh side that, to judge from their ineffectual efforts against the Lions in Derby this week, are unlikely to prove the same sort of obstacle that they were in their own conditions in Dhaka and Chittagong in March.
Middlesex's Steven Finn, who made his debut on that tour, also comes in to the side and could play as a third seamer. Finn has been in impressive early-season form with his county, cashing in with 14 wickets in his first Championship outing of the season against Worcestershire. His development came on in leaps and bounds following his last-minute call-up to Bangladesh, and his height and pace could prove essential in Australia this winter.
"We were encouraged by Steven Finn's Test debut in Bangladesh during the winter and he has had a fine start to the domestic season for Middlesex," said Miller. "He is aware of what is involved at the international level and, along with Ajmal Shahzad, who has also made a bright start to the county season after touring Bangladesh over the winter, offers us a great deal of depth in the bowling ranks."
Despite his important role in the World Twenty20 triumph, Broad's omission could probably be justified on the grounds of form alone. Of all England's seamers, he was the one who struggled the most to make headway on Bangladesh's flat surfaces, and his once-promising batting has gone backwards to such an extent that Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann have both leapt ahead of him in the allrounder stakes.
A break could be just the thing to rejuvenate him, and as Miller explained: "There's a need for Stuart to undertake an intensive strengthening programme ahead of an arduous summer and a busy winter and the next three weeks have been identified as the ideal period for this programme."
Collingwood, however, presents a trickier case to the England management, not least because, as a trophy-winning captain, he is suddenly something of a drawcard for arguably the first time in his career. Furthermore, as a player who has spent most of his Test career with question-marks over his place in the side, he is unlikely to take kindly to the notion of being rested when he is in arguably the best Test form of his career.
Flower, however, is nothing if not a pragmatist, and he knows that Collingwood's dour grit will be invaluable in both the Ashes and the 2011 World Cup this winter, but only if his body is capable of taking the strain of two high-intensity campaigns. For several seasons, he has been dogged by a shoulder problem that is likely to require surgery at some stage in the near future, and though questions will be raised as to why, in that case, he was allowed to play for Delhi in the IPL, the new trophy in the ECB's cabinet might go some way towards answering that.
Bresnan's big-hearted efforts in Bangladesh were backed up by a display of unexpected nous and talent in the World Twenty20, and he is sure to get a chance to lead the line in a home international, and present his credentials as a long-term Test No. 7. Collingwood's absence also gives Jonathan Trott an opportunity to prove he's recovered from the crisis of confidence that gripped him in South Africa.
England squad: Andrew Strauss (capt), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Alastair Cook, Steven Finn, Eoin Morgan, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior (w/k), Ajmal Shahzad, Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott.