West Indies in England 2012 May 12, 2012

Bopara injury raises batting questions


Ravi Bopara will have every right to curse his misfortune if the thigh problem he picked up against Kent in the County Championship halts his chances of a Test recall. The signs were not promising on Saturday as he emerged at No. 8 with a runner, with Essex confirming he had a "slight tear to his right quad" after scans yesterday evening.

It was a frustrating winter for Bopara, who was ever present in the Test squad but did not get the chance to add to his 12 caps even when Eoin Morgan was dropped after the series against Pakistan. He was the favourite to come into the side to face Sri Lanka but an untimely side injury meant he was unable to bowl, which impacted the balance of the side and Samit Patel was preferred in the middle order with drinks carrying again in Bopara's hands. In his favour this time is that his bowling is a far less important factor but England will not want to enter a Test with a player under an injury cloud.

Bopara has not had an extended run in the Test side since the 2009 series against Australia when his technique and confidence were unpicked during the first four matches before he lost his place for the deciding contest at The Oval. Since then he has made just two Test appearances, both against India last season, as an injury replacement for Jonathan Trott. In those two games he walked in facing no-win situations with England on 596 for 4 and 487 for 5 making scores of 7 and 44 not out. That followed the head-to-head battle with Morgan earlier that season, which the latter won at the last minute with 193 for the Lions against the Sri Lankans at Derby.

The fact Bopara was not included in the England Lions side to face the West Indians at Northampton indicated that he was set for first dibs at No. 6 this season, with Patel's left-arm spin not required in English conditions and Morgan having spent six weeks warming the bench in the IPL. Bopara has made an impression this season with an excellent hundred in tough conditions at Headingley; hundreds at the start of this campaign are a particularly notable achievement.

But injury to one player is a chance for another, should Bopara be ruled out - although who that will be is open to debate. Jonny Bairstow is gathering some momentum after scoring two hundreds for Yorkshire this season and he struck a confident half-century against the West Indians. He is an exceptional talent who has already shown glimpses on the international stage although was batting low for the Lions at No. 7.

James Taylor picked a good moment to score a hundred against the West Indians, although he appears to have slipped down the pecking order over the winter. Patel was picked for a specific role in Sri Lanka and, while he has batted No. 4 for Nottinghamshire this season to further his international ambitions, does not appear a top-six Test batsman. Somerset's Nick Compton, who is also in the Lions team, is the leading domestic run-scorer this season.

England's batsmen did not cover themselves in glory over the winter tours in the UAE and Sri Lanka, only passing 400 once as they levelled the series in Colombo, but of the specialists only Morgan has so far paid with his place and that will not change in the short or even medium-term. Andrew Strauss has scored one Test hundred in 50 innings but has huge backing from within the set-up and Ian Bell scored a timely century against Durham last week, although his place in the squad was never in doubt.

There are unlikely to be surprises elsewhere in what will be a 13-man squad, unless Bopara is picked and they decide to provide cover. Steven Finn and Tim Bresnan played in the second Test against Sri Lanka, the latter taking his 100% Test-win record to 11 from 11, and the pair will be competing to partner James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who is fully recovered from the calf injury that ended his Sri Lanka tour, in the pace line-up. One other option for the selectors if Bopara is ruled out would be to keep Matt Prior at No. 6 and play five bowlers, although that appears unlikely.

The 13th member is likely to be another quick bowler in the shape of Graham Onions, who has started the season strongly for Durham by taking 22 wickets in four matches. He was with the squad at various stages during the winter but will probably have to wait for an injury or two to strike before the chance comes to restart his Test career, which is stalled on eight Tests after a career-threatening back injury two seasons ago. In the pace department, England have no shortage of options.

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

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on May 13, 2012, 8:30 GMT

    @ncurd on (May 12 2012, 19:06 PM GMT) - I hear your views esp re Trott coming in when in his late 20s. I seem to remember Trott coming into a pressure match vs Aus for his debut and he obviously prevailed and has been a nailed on team player. My guess is that Eng will pick Taylor or JB for this series as they will see it as an ideal opportunity to try and blood a young player as opposed to in at the deep end vs SA etc. Horses for courses if you will. As a Somerset fan I will have mixed views whichever selection they make. On form I feel Nick deserves his chance but from a purely selfish point of view Compton's loss to Somerset will be far greater than the value Eng will get from him. Also I seem to remember Ramprakash was averaging around 100 for Surrey at the time when Trott came in and Eng ignored his form. Thought our selectors lacked imagination/bravery in UAE. I can see merrits in whatever route they choose here

  • Kevin on May 13, 2012, 8:27 GMT

    It is unlucky for Bopara but, and this is as an Essex fan, he did have those windows of opportunity before and never quite took them. This time he's going to miss out. One thing to remember is whoever comes in (would like to see Taylor but think it will be Bairstow) is that Bopara took this lot for 3 consecutive hundreds last time so no matter how well they do there are greater challenges ahead, hopefully a nice little warm up for whoever gets the nod.

  • Anupam on May 13, 2012, 7:42 GMT

    for team like WI nothing to worry. taylor gives messaage to selectors. eng will go with 3 pacers and a allrounder (bresnan). strauss has to left opening batting he must go down to no 3/4. cook, strauss, trott, taylor/ bairstrow, bell, prior, bresnan, swann, onion, anderson, finn. bresnan is better than broad. broad is a good odi player but for test bresnan is favourite.

  • Dummy4 on May 13, 2012, 7:21 GMT

    Extremely happy about this news. Bopara is not, and never has been Test level. the only reason he is anywhere near the England XI is because he plays for Essex. Get Bairstow in.

  • Luke on May 13, 2012, 6:50 GMT

    @Darren Cook: Nick Compton's Grandfather was Dennins Compton, who played 78 tests and scored over 5800 runs averaging over 50 for England and he has been living in the UK for his entire cricketing career and played for England under 19s well over a decade ago - is that not enough of a qualifaction for you? how "English" do you want?

  • John on May 13, 2012, 3:39 GMT

    @Darren Cook on (May 12 2012, 22:44 PM GMT), so you don't rate the fact that the father of Compton's English-born father was a great of English Test cricket as a factor in Compton being a talented cricketer?

  • Dummy4 on May 12, 2012, 22:44 GMT

    Compton is South African and not English therefore Bairstow or Taylor should be ENGLANDS next choice.

  • stuart on May 12, 2012, 20:52 GMT

    Taylor or Bairstow should be the pick.have a feeling Taylor will be a very good batsman for a long time.Not seen as much of Bairstow.have a feeling that we might get yet another Saffer though.The way it is going the series against South Africa will be hard to tell who is the away team

  • John on May 12, 2012, 20:51 GMT

    Like others , I feel for Ravi and let's not forget there are others who have started their test careers in unconvincing fashion and come on better 2nd timae around. Bell and Vaughan both started unconvincingly.Must admit I've not seen how JB has been doing this season but if you're going on this/end of last season's form you'd go for Nicko and if you go by this match you'd go for Taylor.I think Nick would have been a good man to have in UAE but I feel that they'll go for Taylor or Bairstow and that if they don't pick Nick now he'll never play for England which is a shame as there are certainly worse capped Eng players but while I'd feel sorry for him as I feel he deserves a chance , the silver lining is that he'll play more games for Somerset and we need all the quality we can get. Could also do without the rain ruining 3 games - 2 of which we were well on top in

  • Nicholas on May 12, 2012, 19:06 GMT

    If Bairstow gets the chance I'm giving up on the selectors. Yes he'll play for England someday but what exactly has he done over this and last season that Compton hasn't?

    Pick the most in form players, we wouldn't even be considering Bairstow if it was 1-1 against SA entering the third test. Trott's debut was at 28 and that was hardly the worst selection in the world. Compton will be only about a year older.

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