England v India, 4th npower Test, The Oval August 17, 2011

Pressure on Bopara as Taylor shines

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Graham Thorpe, the England Lions batting coach, believes James Taylor would be ready for the challenges of Test cricket should a chance arise in the middle order, which will add to the pressure on Ravi Bopara to perform against India at The Oval.

England have moved on from the days of a player's future being decided by a performance in the final Test of the season, yet despite a selection process now based on continuity and loyalty Bopara faces a crucial five days. Jonathan Trott's shoulder injury has given him another chance to show he should be the spare batsman on the winter tours but he will know there are other players breathing down his neck.

Top of that list of contenders is Taylor, the Leicestershire batsman, who captained the Lions to their 2-1 one-day series win against Sri Lanka A and scored two hundreds. His County Championship form has been less convincing with 502 runs at 31.37 but Thorpe is in no doubt about his potential.

"He has been in the system for a few years and he's very mature," Thorpe told ESPNcricinfo. "You forget sometimes that's he's 21 years old because he knows his game very well. That's the most important thing and you get a feeling that he would be ready. Now it's just a question of an opportunity to open up for him."

Bopara had very little to gain when he walked in at 596 for 4 at Edgbaston and was subsequently lbw to Amit Mishra for 7. However, the skittish nature of his brief stay highlighted a player who is feeling the pressure and while the selectors won't make snap judgements they also won't be shy of ruthless decisions. Precedents have been set with Steven Finn's omission during the Ashes and the way Andy Flower decided, on the evidence of one match in Abu Dhabi, that Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb should open in Twenty20.

Following his omission from the Test team during the 2009 Ashes, Bopara has tried to revive his career with domestic stints in New Zealand and South Africa followed by a return to the England Lions set-up where he has worked with Thorpe.

"Ravi himself will know it's an important Test match for him to do well. What comes next is hard to say, Ravi would be right to just focus on this game," Thorpe said. "I'd say to players whoever they are representing - whether it's the full side or the Lions - not to look too far ahead. That's one of the reasons are England are doing well right now because they just look after the here and now."

Thorpe also doesn't believe that England's Test line-up should be altered just for the sake of finding a spot for a talented young player and at the moment the priority should be maintaining the form that has propelled them to No. 1.

"I feel you should never pre-empt selection by resting guys," he said. "England are a long way from matching someone like Australia who dominated for years so aren't in a position to be shuffling things around. It might naturally happen that space opens up and with the volume of cricket being played there might be chances to get players in."

In his role with the Lions, Thorpe is gaining first-hand knowledge of the players coming through the system to challenge for top honours. Much is made of England's depth in fast bowlers - highlighted this week by the recall of Graham Onions after doubts emerged over James Anderson's fitness - but Thorpe is equally confident over the batting talent emerging.

"I'm excited by what's underneath," he said. "The age profile is younger as well. If you look at Taylor, Jonny Bairstow, Alex Hales and Joe Root they are all in their early 20s. There is some good, young talent to work with and, while that doesn't mean they will make it for certain in the long term, when you have a pack of competitive batsmen to work with it can only be a good thing."

Andrew Strauss, meanwhile, believes the competition from the Lions is important in keeping standards high. "We've tried to make sure the Lions squad mirrors what we do so that people understand what is expected of then," he said. "A lot of that drive and determination comes from the individuals as well, and the point of our set-up is to nudge people in the right direction so that they don't become too comfortable."

They are views echoed by Thorpe, who is confident that the set-up underneath the full team is preparing the players who can help England stay top. "The guys are very hungry and know what is expected to play at the highest level," he said. "So hopefully No. 1 won't be a short-term thing and you'd like to think over the next four to five years they can keep building and stay there."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on August 20, 2011, 21:16 GMT

    Oh please England already has enough runscorers!!

    India have been a disgrace. I think they should be made to repay any earnings for the tour and the money handed back to any one who paid to watch them.

    Please don't take this as an attack on the English. I as an Aussie would love (really hate!!) to admit that this has been a thoroughly professional response by the english cricket system to the thumping in 2006-7. They look not just happy to win the ashes as the side of 2005 did, but rather to set the standard for international cricket. The one only let down is that Cook really has not had a good series. multiple failures were not what anyone expected after his amazing summer in Australia.

    That said his one contribution was monumental and sadly 6 runs and 11 balls too short!!

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 19, 2011, 23:03 GMT

    @landl47: "Sure, India with its huge population no doubt has some good young players. How many of them look close to making the jump to international cricket? If they are up to that standard, why aren't they here? " - Well the answer to that is because the Indian selectors have been thinking like you. They don't wish India to pummel England, they are behind making money. India is a huge country but a country filled with backroom politics. If you had seen the emerging players tournament held in Townsville, the Indian team there won the competition. Some REALLY exciting prospects in hand for India in the next few years. Unless you closely monitor the Indian domestic scene like some Indian fans do you can't be so sure about some of the young Indians. So quit the assumptions.

  • dummy4fb on August 19, 2011, 7:49 GMT

    @@Hatsfor Bats- do you really think that we have the same level of young talent coming through as England do? If so why is it a fact that we can't field a team that can beat England? In the last 4 test series England are 3-1 up on us, and the one that we did win had the old guard still in it. I'd say based on sheer figures players like Flintoff, Vaughan, Jones, Hoggard etc were all filled in with like for like players like Cook, Bresnan, Anderson etc- we have nowhere near been able to replace McGrath, Langer, Hayden, Gillespe, let alone Warne & Martyn. England are all over us with the young talent coming through, and that is why I think they will be on or near the top for at least the next 5 years. We on the other hand will struggle to field a competative XI in test cricket in the same period. I just hope that Hughes doesn't fall away he is great to watch..

  • landl47 on August 19, 2011, 4:58 GMT

    @HatsforBats: no, you wouldn't see the same results at this time, but as I said, these guys are only 21/22. None of the England players you mention are close to retirement; by the time they are, the England youngsters will be mature cricketers and ready to take over. With all due respect, England just toured Australia and saw a number of the players you mention; I don't think Australia has anything like the quality of young players that England has, and Australia doesn't have the luxury of a #1 side with most of its players in their 20s and only one over 32. Sure, I might be biased, but you might remember that I said before the Ashes series that this was a very good England side, and I was accused of bias then. Turned out to be justified, didn't it?

  • dummy4fb on August 19, 2011, 4:23 GMT

    i think taylor deserves place in the team

  • mensan on August 19, 2011, 2:49 GMT

    Bopara has never impressed me in tests. It's OK to use him as all rounder in limited overs matches.

  • HatsforBats on August 19, 2011, 0:40 GMT

    @landl47: my point was that you probably just don't rate them as highly as you rate your English players, probably from bias. If you take out Anderson/Bell/Cook and replace them with Woakes/Hales/Taylor do you honestly think you would see the same results? I doubt it. I don't even think you would get the same results if you replace your attack with Shazad/Onions/Finn/Rashid. There is plenty of talent in Aus: Mitch Marsh, Hughes, Khawaja, Starc, Hastings, Hazelwood, Faulkner, Smith, Cummins, Maddinson, as I'm sure there is in Ind, Pak, SA etc. But are they ready for test level cricket and would they be immediately successful? And yes this Eng squad is no.1 and they deserve it, but until they win everywhere they will face the same criticism that India has since becoming top of the ICC points table.

  • ygkd on August 18, 2011, 22:20 GMT

    Taylor has impressive stats for sure, but having watched him on the telly I was left thinking he's still got a lot of work to do if he's going to force his way into an England test line-up. ODIs may be more his place, where he could succeed against the likes of India, he certainly doesn't seem to lack confidence against friendly bowling! Seriously, Samit Patel looks a much more ready-made player. Hyping youth is what Australia currently excels at. It doesn't hurt to make them wait a bit.

  • Stevros3 on August 18, 2011, 20:11 GMT

    Mcgrath-Dravid-Flintoff, the good young bowlers (besides Finn, who is in limbo it seems between lions and the full team). You have Woakes, Shahzad & Dernbach are the obvious three. now it might just be the Warwickshire fan in me; but Woakes could be a future England all-rounder. Just taken 7 wickets today for the Bears (beating his 6-43 against the WI); currently taken 45 wickets in less than 8 games at 17 runs apiece and averaging 45 with the bat. Now one thing he does lack a bit is real pace, but he gets good movement and is consistent with the ball and is a real pleasure to watch bat.

  • Trickstar on August 18, 2011, 18:23 GMT

    @jackchatfield No mate, Taylor when just playing for Leicestershire has a average of 31.37, he's scored 502 runs in 17 innings with 1 not out and he hasn't scored a ton and only 4 fifties to his name. He has scored heavily when playing for the Lions in both first class and ODi's which has got him noticed this year, even though he hasn't performed in a really poor Leic teams, where a lot of the time Taylor finds himself batting with the tale.

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