South Africa in England 2012

Bopara and Onions in England squad

Andrew McGlashan

July 15, 2012

Comments: 124 | Text size: A | A

Steve Finn leaps for joy after having Chris Gayle caught at fine leg, England v West Indies, T20, Trent Bridge, June, 24, 2012
Steven Finn is making a strong case to be the third quick against South Africa © AFP
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Players/Officials: Ravi Bopara | Steven Finn | Graham Onions
Series/Tournaments: South Africa tour of England

Ravi Bopara is back in the England Test squad for the first match against South Africa at The Oval next week. There are five fast bowlers in the 13-man group, with Graham Onions, Steven Finn and Tim Bresnan competing to form the pace trio with James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

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

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

The only other debate is who will be the third fast bowler behind Anderson and Broad. England's regular new-ball pair was rested for the last Test against West Indies but Anderson and Broad 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 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 and a batting average of 40.22 and will be tough to dislodge. Finn, however, made a very strong case for himself with his performances in the Australia ODIs.

In four completed matches, 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 Onions, who was playing his first Test since January 2010.

Geoff Miller, the national selector, said: "Ravi Bopara has worked hard to regain his place in the Test squad following some injury concerns earlier in the season and is the only player included who is yet to play a Test match this summer.

"We have played some very good cricket over the last couple of months in all formats to win series against West Indies and Australia and after a month of limited overs cricket, preparations are now underway for what is sure to be a very competitive Test series against South Africa," Miller said. "We know we will need to play excellent cricket to win this three-match series and the squad will be determined to start with a strong performance this week during the first Investec Test and set the tone for the rest of the series."

On Saturday, the ICC's annual refresh of the rankings pushed South Africa to third but if they beat England they will replace them at the top of the table. England will retain their spot with a won or drawn series over the three Tests at The Oval, Headingley and Lord's.

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

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by JG2704 on (July 18, 2012, 11:44 GMT)

@CricketingStargazer on (July 18 2012, 08:05 AM GMT) Hello. Yes you are right in that it's not that often but may I put a counter question your way. How often has our number 6 made a telling contribution in recent years? When I say a telling contribution I mean come in when we'd lost the top order early and helped change the game? I bet I can give more examples where our bowlers have struggled than you can give examples of occasions when our nr 6 has helped save our bacon. In UAE/SL , not once did our number 6 make a valuable contribution and a recent example of when our bowling attack struggled was the 1st test in UAE. My honest opinion is that I really don't think it's even that much of a gamble (if at all) going for 5 bowlers because our 6th batsman has let us down time and again. If Bopara does the business then maybe I'll start to change my mindset. The other point is if/when a bowler breaks down and we have 2+1 or 1+2 (pacers/spinners) ratio left.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (July 18, 2012, 10:30 GMT)

Incidentally, putting an erroneous theory to bed, a 0-1 or 1-2 win put both South Africa and England on 118 points, but South Africa would go #1 as they would be on 118.08 and England on 117.92. Just a win by one Test gives South Africa a 9 point swing. In contrast, a win by one Test gives England only a 4 point swing. England wins by 2-0 and 3-0 give 8 and 11 point swings respectively, but even a 3-0 win gains England just 4 extra points: in all case of an England series win, South Africa drop more points than South Africa fall.

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (July 18, 2012, 8:05 GMT)

Just out of curiousity, how often has England's 4-bowler attack struggled to take 20 wickets? Not often!! The reserve attack could not blow away the West Indian tail in he 3rd Test, but that was with the match already condemned to an almost-certain draw and, I suspect, the intensity had already dropped down because of it. We also let Pakistan get too many in the 1st Test in the UAE but, if those calling for a 5-man attack are honest, they will admit that Plan A has worked on the immense majority of occasions. With pitches still likely to have some spice in them from the wet spring and summer, we should not need a 5th bowler if the other 4 are doing their job!

Posted by landl47 on (July 17, 2012, 13:50 GMT)

Personally, I'd play the extra batsman (Bopara), because I think, given that SA have had little match practice, it will be easier (not easy, just easier) to get them out than to score runs against them. Bopara won't take many wickets at test level, but he's capable of bowling a few overs economically and if he picks up a wicket or two that will be a bonus. Then it comes down to the best three seamers plus Swann. Realistically, it's Bresnan or Finn for the third spot. they have almost identical records; both played 14 tests, Bres 55 wickets @26.09, Finn 56 @27.42. Finn's faster, Bresnan can reverse swing the old ball. Finn's 23 to Bres's 27 and Finn is still improving- he will be the better bowler over his career, but is he yet? Bres is the better bat; both are reliable but not spectacular fielders. I'd go Finn myself because of his extra pace and bounce, but I think Eng will go with Bres and it's hard to argue with that.

Posted by JG2704 on (July 17, 2012, 13:48 GMT)

@ashes61 on (July 17 2012, 09:05 AM GMT) I'd say going for the jugular would be playing both in a 5 man attack. If we're playing 4 only then I prob would keep faith with Bres because he is a specialist with the old ball. I'm with mcheckley on (July 17 2012, 09:40 AM GMT) 100%

Posted by JG2704 on (July 17, 2012, 13:48 GMT)

@Prash Ganen on (July 16 2012, 08:55 AM GMT) May I add to Mikey76s comms that (presuming the 2 SA players who have scored the most runs are Kallis and Smith) they will also have played test cricket for longer than any of our players.

Posted by mcheckley on (July 17, 2012, 12:45 GMT)

I do grow weary of all this talk of A B deVilliers as some sort of backup wicketkeeper who can "do you a job" in an emergency, like Crawley of old for England. This man is a THOROUGHBRED wicketkeeper, in his own style as complete a wicketkeeper-batsman as was Gillchrist. Because his batting is so very good, he forced his way into the team before a wicketkeeping vacancy arose, but he is a time-served, fully experienced wicketkeeper of the highest order. He wil be a tiny bit rusty due to a few years of only doing the job occasionally, but he has been keeping more of late in other forms of the game and a couple of Test Matches will soon see him keeping wicket as well as anyone in the international game. He can do the same job for SA as Stewart did for England for many years - except ABdeV is stronger in both aspects than was Stewart, good as the latter undoubtedly was. If I was planning the future of the SA team I would have ABDeV down as my wicketkeeper for the next decade.

Posted by   on (July 17, 2012, 12:26 GMT)

JG2704, Good point but then who trusts ICC rankings? Harbhajan bowled so badly for 2 years that he got kicked out of the weak bowling Indian team more than a year ago and he is still ranked ahead of current greats like Finn and Tremlett as a bowler. And guess who, as a batsman, is ranked ahead of modern greats like Ponting, Tendulkar, Hussey, Bell, KP, Trott and Jayawerdene? A guy called Azhar Ali. Ali who? That's right, after a century against Bangla, he is in the top 10 and all these others are not!

10 753 Azhar Ali 753 v Sri Lanka, 08/07/2012 12 749 S.R. Tendulkar 898 v Zimbabwe, 21/02/2002 13 723 I.R. Bell 822 v India, 18/08/2011 14 720 Misbah-ul-Haq 771 v England, 25/01/2012 14 720 T.T. Samaraweera 775 v South Africa, 03/01/2012 16 718 K.P. Pietersen 909 v West Indies, 28/05/2007 17 709 I.J.L. Trott 856 v Sri Lanka, 26/05/2011 18 705 M.E.K. Hussey 921 v West Indies, 23/05/2008 19 693 D.P.M.D. Jayawardene 883 v India, 16/11/2009 20 691 R.T. Ponting

Posted by SDHM on (July 17, 2012, 11:06 GMT)

ashes61 - watching our catching in recent ODIs, I find it hard to support your case! We are a more athletic side than South Africa though, so our ground-fielding should, and most probably will, be better. SA seem to put more faith in muscle and strength than all-round fitness like England, and AB de Villiers and Duminy aside, aren't quite as agile in the field as they should be. They make up for it by being safe catchers though - Amla for example, is not a natural fielder, but an excellent catcher at bat-pad positions. On team selection, if Bresnan was fit I'd play both him and Finn and I'd drop Broad as he's been way down on pace so far this year and since Lord's against the Windies has been far less effective because of it. That's never going to happen, so I wouldn't risk Bres and bring Finn in.

Posted by mcheckley on (July 17, 2012, 9:40 GMT)

The issue should not arise; England can afford to play five bowlers. I know they do not have a true allrounder, but they have three very fine bowling allrounders; there will not be many innings in which one of Bresnan, Broad and Swan does not make runs. Prior at 6, Bresnan 7, Broad 8, Swann 9. It's STILL a strong tail. If they insist on just four bowlers plus Bopara (a modern equivalent of four bowlers plus Collingwood) then Bresnan is very hard indeed to leave out because his bowling figures are as good as anyone's and better than most, and, for goodness' sake, the man averages over 40 with a bat in his hand - that's more than Atherton did over an entire career! However, with the three bowling allrounders I would definitely go for an attack with five "proper" bowlers, and I am afraid than means Bopara misses out.

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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