South Africa in England 2012 July 14, 2012

Bopara's wait is almost over

35

Ravi Bopara's return to England's Test team will be confirmed on Sunday when he is slotted in for the No. 6 role against South Africa. He will be the one significant change from the team which took on West Indies earlier this season by replacing Jonny Bairstow in the middle order.

Bopara's form in the ODI series against Australia, where he scored 182 runs and claimed four useful wickets, confirmed he is primed for a return to the Test side after a frustrating period where injuries have curtailed his opportunities. He was set to make a comeback in Sri Lanka after Eoin Morgan was dropped but picked up a side strain which prevented him from bowling and so Samit Patel was preferred over him. Then, at the start of this season, he injured his thigh which ruled him out of the series against West Indies.

That opened the door for Yorkshire's Bairstow, but he struggled in the three Tests and made just 38 runs and has not had a huge amount of batting since. He returned to Championship action this week and collected a first-ball duck against Hampshire.

The other area of debate for the selectors will be who takes the role of third fast bowler behind James Anderson and Stuart Broad. England's new-ball pair missed the last Test against West Indies when they were both rested but will return to spearhead the attack for the main event of the season.

In the first two Tests against West Indies they were accompanied by Tim Bresnan who was Man of the Match at Trent Bridge after a destructive spell of reverse swing on the third evening sealed the series for England. He currently has a Test bowling average of 26.09 (alongside his batting figure of 40.22) and will be tough to dislodge, but Steven Finn's performances in the recent one-day matches have made a very strong case.

In the four completed matches against Australia, Finn took eight wickets at 19.37 including 4 for 37 at Chester-le-Street. He played the final Test against West Indies when Broad and Anderson were rested but was out-bowled on that occasion by Graham Onions who is the other fast bowler in contention. However, it may be that Onions does not even find a place in this squad such are England's resources.

There are a couple of lingering injury concerns with Bresnan and Graeme Swann having both recently been rested due to elbow problems. Swann missed the last two ODIs against Australia, and did not play for Nottinghamshire against Middlesex, while Bresnan has not played since the fourth ODI at Chester-le-Street.

Earlier this week Andy Flower said: "Swann and Bresnan have ongoing elbow problems. Our medical staff believe they will be fit and available for selection for the first Test but it's a strenuous exercise being a bowler playing international cricket.

"They play all three forms of the game so that's why Swann missed a big part of the one-day series and why we rested Bresnan for the last match at Old Trafford."

The impact of an injury to Swann is one area where this England side have yet to be tested. His absence would leave a vast hole to fill as he provides both attacking and defensive skills, which have been key to England being able to employ a four-man attack with such success.

Should cover - or even a replacement - be needed at any stage it would probably come from either Monty Panesar or James Tredwell instead of any of the young spinners in county cricket such as Danny Briggs, Scott Borthwick or Simon Kerrigan who are still some way short of Test quality.

Panesar made a successful return against Pakistan in the UAE earlier this year, but did himself no favours with a poor fielding display at Galle and Tredwell, who took 2 for 23 in the last ODI against Australia, may well be the preferred option. This, though, is not the series where England want to test that theory.

Probable squad Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • chrisesurfer on July 15, 2012, 8:18 GMT

    England win when Bresnan plays, its as simple as that...

  • trav29 on July 15, 2012, 8:14 GMT

    oops , not 123 wickets , 62 wickets but still at an average of 23

  • JG2704 on July 15, 2012, 8:03 GMT

    @DIGower on (July 15 2012, 06:19 AM GMT) I don't know the exact stats with Broad but if you look at his average for the past year or so I'm sure it looks better than the overall average. Bresnan's average is better but was prob quite inflated (esp with bat) as he never played in UAE. Also look at Finn when he came back in against WI in the final test. His stats weren't great then and Onions was better than Finn. Also I believe Broad was man of the series vs India in the series which took us to number 1 and has done little wrong since. The one bad test he had was in SL where they took a gamble on playing him while injured

  • JG2704 on July 15, 2012, 8:03 GMT

    @SIRSOBERS on (July 14 2012, 22:13 PM GMT) Bopara's a funny one. He was maybe unlucky to be discarded to begin with but then really did little to earn a recall so he is probably both lucky and unlucky. Morgan did no better than ok but not enough with the bat being that he can't bowl. On hindsight maybe Ravi should have started in UEA as his bowling might have also helped out there , although I don't think he'd have done much with the bat

  • JG2704 on July 15, 2012, 8:03 GMT

    @landl47 on (July 14 2012, 17:22 PM GMT) As you know I'd have them both in or maybe Onions instead of Finn. Is Bres carrying a knock? I guess it's difficult to leave him out being that he's done well in tests and Eng love their(paper) batting depth. The other thing (and I know it's just 1 test) - Finn's figures were hardly great in the last WI test. Onions were a little better and I believe Onions has been doing better at domestic level. Unlike KP in ODIs etc with his Uturn I guess it's a nice prob to have

  • JG2704 on July 15, 2012, 8:03 GMT

    @sonicattack on (July 14 2012, 16:53 PM GMT) I see where you're coming from but it's not just the dropped catches but also his speed and agility in the field. In ODIs they don't want someone who they feel the opposition can take extra runs to. And to be fair Tredwell did a decent job. I do however feel that Monty was poorly cast aside in SL especially when it was our batsmen who underperformed and I did see him as a bit of a scapegoat and Bres didn't do much in that 2nd SL test , even though they won. However it's not really a pitch for 2 spinners and Swann will always be the number 1

  • trav29 on July 15, 2012, 7:59 GMT

    broad has taken 123 wickets since the start of 2011 at an average of around 23 , his career average is inflated by a bad first year in tests and a dodgy year in 2010. i would say his average for the last two years means more than his career average given his age and the progression he has made.

  • axe_hay on July 15, 2012, 7:15 GMT

    Why cant the selectors have faith in Nick Compton, James Taylor or Jimmy Hildreth ???

  • caughtatcover on July 15, 2012, 6:49 GMT

    Looks like Finn is yet again going to be squeezed out of the final XI. That lad's bowled exceptionally well in the last few appearances for England. He deserves a good run in the national test squad. But its the problem that every management loves to have. Hopefully he doesn't miss out and be the unlucky one again as its such a waste of talent seeing him carry the drinks time and time again.

  • Rinpoche on July 15, 2012, 6:19 GMT

    What is it with Broad? He is a fixture in the England team & now opens the bowling. His bowling average is the wrong side of 30/wkt -- both Bresnan's and Finn's bowling stats are considerably better than his. Surely England are not picking an opening bowler for his batting? Is it his attitude? His connections? His experience?

  • chrisesurfer on July 15, 2012, 8:18 GMT

    England win when Bresnan plays, its as simple as that...

  • trav29 on July 15, 2012, 8:14 GMT

    oops , not 123 wickets , 62 wickets but still at an average of 23

  • JG2704 on July 15, 2012, 8:03 GMT

    @DIGower on (July 15 2012, 06:19 AM GMT) I don't know the exact stats with Broad but if you look at his average for the past year or so I'm sure it looks better than the overall average. Bresnan's average is better but was prob quite inflated (esp with bat) as he never played in UAE. Also look at Finn when he came back in against WI in the final test. His stats weren't great then and Onions was better than Finn. Also I believe Broad was man of the series vs India in the series which took us to number 1 and has done little wrong since. The one bad test he had was in SL where they took a gamble on playing him while injured

  • JG2704 on July 15, 2012, 8:03 GMT

    @SIRSOBERS on (July 14 2012, 22:13 PM GMT) Bopara's a funny one. He was maybe unlucky to be discarded to begin with but then really did little to earn a recall so he is probably both lucky and unlucky. Morgan did no better than ok but not enough with the bat being that he can't bowl. On hindsight maybe Ravi should have started in UEA as his bowling might have also helped out there , although I don't think he'd have done much with the bat

  • JG2704 on July 15, 2012, 8:03 GMT

    @landl47 on (July 14 2012, 17:22 PM GMT) As you know I'd have them both in or maybe Onions instead of Finn. Is Bres carrying a knock? I guess it's difficult to leave him out being that he's done well in tests and Eng love their(paper) batting depth. The other thing (and I know it's just 1 test) - Finn's figures were hardly great in the last WI test. Onions were a little better and I believe Onions has been doing better at domestic level. Unlike KP in ODIs etc with his Uturn I guess it's a nice prob to have

  • JG2704 on July 15, 2012, 8:03 GMT

    @sonicattack on (July 14 2012, 16:53 PM GMT) I see where you're coming from but it's not just the dropped catches but also his speed and agility in the field. In ODIs they don't want someone who they feel the opposition can take extra runs to. And to be fair Tredwell did a decent job. I do however feel that Monty was poorly cast aside in SL especially when it was our batsmen who underperformed and I did see him as a bit of a scapegoat and Bres didn't do much in that 2nd SL test , even though they won. However it's not really a pitch for 2 spinners and Swann will always be the number 1

  • trav29 on July 15, 2012, 7:59 GMT

    broad has taken 123 wickets since the start of 2011 at an average of around 23 , his career average is inflated by a bad first year in tests and a dodgy year in 2010. i would say his average for the last two years means more than his career average given his age and the progression he has made.

  • axe_hay on July 15, 2012, 7:15 GMT

    Why cant the selectors have faith in Nick Compton, James Taylor or Jimmy Hildreth ???

  • caughtatcover on July 15, 2012, 6:49 GMT

    Looks like Finn is yet again going to be squeezed out of the final XI. That lad's bowled exceptionally well in the last few appearances for England. He deserves a good run in the national test squad. But its the problem that every management loves to have. Hopefully he doesn't miss out and be the unlucky one again as its such a waste of talent seeing him carry the drinks time and time again.

  • Rinpoche on July 15, 2012, 6:19 GMT

    What is it with Broad? He is a fixture in the England team & now opens the bowling. His bowling average is the wrong side of 30/wkt -- both Bresnan's and Finn's bowling stats are considerably better than his. Surely England are not picking an opening bowler for his batting? Is it his attitude? His connections? His experience?

  • on July 15, 2012, 3:47 GMT

    @jackthelad - while I agree with you that for much of his career Andrew Flintoff was decidedly mediocre - picked more for his potential than current performance - there was definitely a purple patch around 2003-2006 when he was a top notch bowler (better than his figures even over that period suggested) and a consistent batsman.

    So for those few years he was a very good allrounder. Was he in the same league as "the big four" from the 80s? No, but he was still a very good player.

  • raza_87 on July 15, 2012, 2:15 GMT

    Cook, Broad and Philander, Kallis are key player for their respective team.

  • on July 15, 2012, 0:32 GMT

    In the ongoing county match, Panesar is doing well. Of course,Test cricket is a different game!

  • on July 15, 2012, 0:07 GMT

    TeamSelector: I agree that in the past with two bowlers vying for a spot they would go with the one who could bat. I don't see that as necessary these days with a strong batting line up including a keeper who scores heavily; and also two other bowlers, Swann and Broad, who can bat. When you only have four bowlers you need your best four. Not much wrong with Bresnan, but he's just getting over an injury, and in the form he is in, Finn deserves to be selected.

  • TeamSelector on July 14, 2012, 22:58 GMT

    Everybody here seems to think that England will pick Finn over Bresnan. That will never happen. Finn averages 9 with the bat as compared to Bresnan,s 40. It's as simple as that. The 'think tank' will always pick the bowler who can bat.

  • iammsm on July 14, 2012, 22:39 GMT

    Where in the heavens is James Taylor? They should check his First Class statistics and also performance. He deserves to be right there in the 6th slot.

  • jackthelad on July 14, 2012, 22:38 GMT

    Adrian - Flintoff was never a 'specialist bowler', he was a big-hitting erratic batsman who occasionally bowled a spell worth having - but only occasionally. He was maybe the last casualty of the absolutely extraordinary patch of all-rounder cricket of the late 70s/early 80s which saw four (can you believe it?) world-class all-rounders in action at more or less the same time. 'All-rounder' does not mean 'bits and pieces player', and there have been maybe a dozen genuine all-rounders in the history of Test cricket. Flintoff wasn't even nearly one of them.

  • BRUTALANALYST on July 14, 2012, 22:13 GMT

    Bopara should have played much more test cricket for England it's a joke Morgan got selected above him and now even Bairstow, Bopara is clearly the better Batsman of the 3.

  • MartinC on July 14, 2012, 20:44 GMT

    Bopara deserves his chance, but I'm not convinced with him personally. I think Morgan will still come back and be the long term No.6. But good luck to Ravi - its important he gets off to a good start for his confidence.

    If Bresnan is fit he will probably keep his place but if there is any doubt at all Finn will come in and make the bowling even stronger. Personally I would go with Finn over Bresnan anyway tough as that would be on Bresnan.

  • Long-Leg on July 14, 2012, 20:25 GMT

    I would go with Bopara ahead of Bairstow for this series. It is good to give youngsters a chance, but there is nothing wrong with dropping them either if they start to look out of their depth. I just feel that Bairstow is not quite ready for South Africa. He needs another couple of years to develop his game. This is Ravi's moment to make a name for himself and I hope he grasps it.

  • AdrianVanDenStael on July 14, 2012, 19:47 GMT

    @ sonicattack: Pietersen dropped 6 catches in the 2005 Ashes series, and didn't hang onto one at all successfully that series; he finally took his first test catch in Pakistan that winter. I think people get on Panesar's back a bit about his fielding, but I have doubts about him for a different reason, although not one which is his fault. If you look at his record he averages nearly 37 in test cricket on all other grounds besides Old Trafford, and unfortunately England don't play at Old Trafford any more. Unfortunately for a specialist bowler that's not a great record. @Muhtasim13; personally I think 5 bowlers might be a good tactic, but the England management clearly disagrees, and they have almost never used that strategy since Flintoff's retirement. That means that Bopara will play if he is in the squad (which is what people seem to expect), and if so I hope he has a good series. Bopara seems to be another player with whom England fans seem to lose patience inexplicably quickly

  • MattyP1979 on July 14, 2012, 19:06 GMT

    I feel for Bopara here. I do actually think he will have a tough series. He has talent and I do hope he lives up to it but these SA are a going to be a real examination for our no.6. SA including Dumminy at 7 look a very strong outfit too. But for those all ready handing it to SA before a ball being bowled (the same ones who predictied Ind would beat us no doubt) might be in for a shock. We won't embarress SA like we did Ind but I still feel we will win.

  • jackthelad on July 14, 2012, 18:20 GMT

    That's a top-notch squad, and personally I'd go for Finn ahead of Bresnan, simply for his ability to produce great speed at will - Bresnan is a bit too similar to Broad; however, his undoubted batting superiority will probably get him the spot (let's see if SA can test it, as the Aussies did ... hahaha) In either case, Team England is a world-beating outfit, and now has tested depth as well as first-eleven ability. bring 'em on!

  • EnglishCricket on July 14, 2012, 18:02 GMT

    I think England have no choice but to give Ravi that slot because he's back in form and the most experience so its probably for the best for this 3 match Test Series.

  • landl47 on July 14, 2012, 17:22 GMT

    I tend to think that England will go with Finn rather than Bresnan. With Bopara coming in (which I think is a certainty, given his performances in the ODIs for which Bairstow wasn't selected), England has a second-change bowler to use up a few overs while the seamers take a break. That allows England to pick their best three seamers, which must be Anderson, Broad and Finn. Bresnan's an excellent cricketer, but Finn's extra pace will be needed against the great SA batsmen. I suppose England might go with Bresnan for his batting, but that would be rather a defensive option and those rarely come off. @rahulkkhh: you don't think Tahir will be selected for SA, then?

  • CricketingStargazer on July 14, 2012, 17:12 GMT

    I don't think that there is too much doubt that the selectors will go with Bopara at 6 and Bresnan. Strange to think that with a Test average of 40 he will probably bat at 9, with Swann, who has 6 First Class centuries, at 10! Bopara is in prime form. If he doesn't take it he knows that he will not get another chance and that is a prime incentive. South Africa's preparation has been limited, they have had little international play over the last few months and England have a real chance to catch them cold in the 1st Test.

  • Muhtasim13 on July 14, 2012, 17:01 GMT

    Well Bopara deserves his shot in the Test side. But I'm just wondering whether England might consider playing 4 fast bowlers along with Swann instead of playing Bopara.

  • sonicattack on July 14, 2012, 16:53 GMT

    I find it odd that Monty Panesar is always criticised for his fielding, even in games when he bowls well! Granted, he's not the best, but in the recent ODI's against Australia England's overall fielding was not up to scratch and there were too many dropped catches. Does anyone remember KP during the 2005 series - can't remember how many he dropped before he managed to hang on to one, but if Monty drops a catch he is blamed for (possibly) losing the match!...and anyway, he did outbowl Swann during the UAE/SL series if I recall correctly. Nothing against Tredwell, but Panesar is a better bowler!

  • Iamnotboredofcricket on July 14, 2012, 16:50 GMT

    Big mistake going back to Bopara. Steyn, Philander and Morkel will just realise their workload is now 1 wicket easier with Ravi.

  • Min2_cric on July 14, 2012, 16:40 GMT

    eng is going to lose...congrats SA..

  • wiseshah on July 14, 2012, 15:34 GMT

    excellent team selection. no controversy. every spot is well deserved. i dont think there is any controversy or debate over team selection. this is the best 12 england got for test team

  • Robster1 on July 14, 2012, 15:27 GMT

    Got a feeling that SA's quality quicks will again find Bopara just short of the necessary quality to succeed at test level.

  • jmcilhinney on July 14, 2012, 15:23 GMT

    The story reads like Bopara's selection is a certainty and, barring injury, you'd have to think that that's the case. He almost certainly would have played the last two series if not for those injuries and he looks to be in form at the moment. With such a big series in the offing, now would be the perfect time for Bopara to finally fulfil the potential so many see in him. ODI form doesn't always translate to Test form though and, regardless of what some Australians would have us believe, he will be facing a better bowling attack here. As for the bowlers, I expect that Bresnan will get the nod if fit. He looked a better with the older ball in the recent ODIs and will likely get more opportunity to use an older ball in Test matches. They should be ready to bring Finn in for game 2 if he doesn't perform well though. As the selectors always seem more willing to drop a bowler than a batsmen, Finn may get his chance.

  • whatawicket on July 14, 2012, 15:13 GMT

    im sorry finny i think you will still have to sit this test out other than injures anderson/broad and bresnan will be the way they go. theres only the saffas who this guy would not be their # 2 in order of bowler preference steyn been #1. so i guess finny you may have to sit another series out unless results go against England .

  • warneneverchuck on July 14, 2012, 14:55 GMT

    It's a series between SA and world XI

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  • warneneverchuck on July 14, 2012, 14:55 GMT

    It's a series between SA and world XI

  • whatawicket on July 14, 2012, 15:13 GMT

    im sorry finny i think you will still have to sit this test out other than injures anderson/broad and bresnan will be the way they go. theres only the saffas who this guy would not be their # 2 in order of bowler preference steyn been #1. so i guess finny you may have to sit another series out unless results go against England .

  • jmcilhinney on July 14, 2012, 15:23 GMT

    The story reads like Bopara's selection is a certainty and, barring injury, you'd have to think that that's the case. He almost certainly would have played the last two series if not for those injuries and he looks to be in form at the moment. With such a big series in the offing, now would be the perfect time for Bopara to finally fulfil the potential so many see in him. ODI form doesn't always translate to Test form though and, regardless of what some Australians would have us believe, he will be facing a better bowling attack here. As for the bowlers, I expect that Bresnan will get the nod if fit. He looked a better with the older ball in the recent ODIs and will likely get more opportunity to use an older ball in Test matches. They should be ready to bring Finn in for game 2 if he doesn't perform well though. As the selectors always seem more willing to drop a bowler than a batsmen, Finn may get his chance.

  • Robster1 on July 14, 2012, 15:27 GMT

    Got a feeling that SA's quality quicks will again find Bopara just short of the necessary quality to succeed at test level.

  • wiseshah on July 14, 2012, 15:34 GMT

    excellent team selection. no controversy. every spot is well deserved. i dont think there is any controversy or debate over team selection. this is the best 12 england got for test team

  • Min2_cric on July 14, 2012, 16:40 GMT

    eng is going to lose...congrats SA..

  • Iamnotboredofcricket on July 14, 2012, 16:50 GMT

    Big mistake going back to Bopara. Steyn, Philander and Morkel will just realise their workload is now 1 wicket easier with Ravi.

  • sonicattack on July 14, 2012, 16:53 GMT

    I find it odd that Monty Panesar is always criticised for his fielding, even in games when he bowls well! Granted, he's not the best, but in the recent ODI's against Australia England's overall fielding was not up to scratch and there were too many dropped catches. Does anyone remember KP during the 2005 series - can't remember how many he dropped before he managed to hang on to one, but if Monty drops a catch he is blamed for (possibly) losing the match!...and anyway, he did outbowl Swann during the UAE/SL series if I recall correctly. Nothing against Tredwell, but Panesar is a better bowler!

  • Muhtasim13 on July 14, 2012, 17:01 GMT

    Well Bopara deserves his shot in the Test side. But I'm just wondering whether England might consider playing 4 fast bowlers along with Swann instead of playing Bopara.

  • CricketingStargazer on July 14, 2012, 17:12 GMT

    I don't think that there is too much doubt that the selectors will go with Bopara at 6 and Bresnan. Strange to think that with a Test average of 40 he will probably bat at 9, with Swann, who has 6 First Class centuries, at 10! Bopara is in prime form. If he doesn't take it he knows that he will not get another chance and that is a prime incentive. South Africa's preparation has been limited, they have had little international play over the last few months and England have a real chance to catch them cold in the 1st Test.