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June 2, 2012
Report : Narine absent but set for Test bow
Features : Workloads and players need careful managing
News : Saker rates attack as good as great Australians
News : Strauss hints at fast-bowling rotation
Series/Tournaments: West Indies tour of England
It is a measure of England's pace-bowling resources that speculation surrounding the naming of their squad for the third Test against West Indies centres on the possibility of both senior quicks being rested. The prospect may not please either James Anderson or Stuart Broad but with England 2-0 up and the series already won, Andy Flower and the selectors are already looking at challenges to come. Such is the unrelenting nature of the international schedule these days.
Anderson is reportedly set to miss out on the squad altogether, while a decision on Broad is expected to be made before the start of the Edgbaston Test on Thursday. Steven Finn, who has deputised for both in the last 12 months, is favourite to step in but Graham Onions could also win a recall for the first time since 2010, to form an intriguing but inexperienced attack with Tim Bresnan. All three are likely to be included in a 12-man party, to be named on Sunday.
England's new-ball pair of Anderson and Broad are currently ranked No. 3 and No. 6 in Tests respectively and, with both keen to play against a West Indies side that has been tormented by seam and swing in the first two Tests, the management will have to use all their powers of persuasion to promote the benefits of rest. Leaving out both would be an uncharacteristic gamble - and may also provoke accusations of cheapening Test cricket - but with the upcoming visit of Australia for a one-day series, followed by the much-anticipated Test face-off against South Africa and then the defence of their World Twenty20 title later in the year, England are having to seriously address the vexed issue of rotation.
While Broad has suffered with minor injuries over the last year or two and, as England's T20 captain, may have the heavier workload to come, Anderson is the bowling unit's prize asset.
He has been almost ever-present in England's rise to the top of the Test rankings, though he was granted a series off for the tour of Bangladesh in early 2010. Since then, Anderson has taken 111 wickets at 23.36 and missed just one Test, against Sri Lanka at Lord's last summer - a game in which the bowlers seemed to struggle without his leadership as the tourists scored nearly 500 in their first innings and then comfortably batted out a draw on the final day. England will want him in peak condition when Dale Steyn - Anderson's main rival for fast-bowling supremacy in Tests - and his South Africa team-mates arrive next month.
In the wake of England's victory at Trent Bridge, Andrew Strauss, the captain, addressed the possibility of changes to the side. "We've always viewed resting and rotating as something you have to do on a case-by-case basis so we'll speak to the seamers, see how they're feeling and see how we're looking for the rest of the summer," he said.
Elsewhere, the line-up looks relatively settled, despite some disquiet about Jonny Bairstow's shaky response to a bombardment from Kemar Roach in the second Test. The No. 6 spot is really the only area about which England may feel any uncertainty but it would go against the grain of their selection policy in recent times to discard Bairstow after just three innings (one of them 0 not out). Ravi Bopara has only played second-XI cricket since suffering a thigh injury that cost him his chance at the start of the series and, while Nick Compton, James Taylor and even Ben Stokes have played attention-grabbing innings in the last week, it seems probable that Bairstow will get another opportunity to prove himself.
Should Flower and Strauss wish to indulge themselves with further experimentation at Edgbaston, however, they could consider returning Matt Prior to the No. 6 spot he recently occupied in Sri Lanka and asking Bresnan - currently making a statistical case as good as any England allrounder of recent times - to also move up the order. Having won their last seven Test series in a row at home, England are a formidable side with plenty of options but, with South Africa the last side to outdo them on their own patch, they will take every opportunity to fine tune before July 19 at The Oval.
Possible squad Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Jonny Bairstow, Matt Prior (wk), Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Steven Finn, Graham Onions
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