South Africa in England 2012 July 14, 2012

Bopara's wait is almost over


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

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

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

  • Martin on July 15, 2012, 8:14 GMT

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

  • John 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

  • John 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

  • John 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

  • John 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

  • Martin 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.

  • Akshay on July 15, 2012, 7:15 GMT

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

  • Prachurjya 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.

  • Ben 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?

  • No featured comments at the moment.