Sidebottom and Ward earn reward for successful A Tours
Ryan Sidebottom and Ian Ward are the new names in the 13-man England squad to take on Pakistan in the First Test against Pakistan at Lord's starting on Thursday.
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"Ian Ward and Ryan Sidebottom enjoyed outstanding A tours this winter and both deserve a chance at Test level," explained David Graveney, England's chairman of selectors.
"Ian's inclusion will give us the option of playing seven batsmen as we chose to do in some of last season's Tests against West Indies and Ryan is also in the frame to play on Thursday and has not just been chosen as a back-up in case of injury to one of the other pace bowlers."
As expected England have stuck with the nucleus of the team that has brought them such success in the last year.
Despite his success as an opener of the England A tour of the West Indies, Ward is expected to bat in the middle order, leaving the opening partnership of Mike Atherton and Marcus Trescothick undisturbed.
Sidebottom was the leading English qualified bowler in the first-class averages in the 2000 domestic season, and has been preferred to fellow left-arm seamer Mullally. Capable of swinging the ball both ways, he appears to have gained a yard of pace over the winter and comes in for centrally-contracted Matthew Hoggard who is currently recovering from a minor back injury. Sidebottom's father, Arnie, also represented England (as well as Manchester United), playing in the Third Test against Australia in 1985.
"He's a valid selection option and being a left-armer, he could give our attack that bit more variety, especially with the slope at Lord's coming into effect," confirmed Graveney.
Photo © CricInfo
"It was a bit of a surprise," Sidebottom admitted, "but I had a good A tour and a good season with Yorkshire last year and I'm just looking forward to getting together with the England lads now."
Having proved his fitness during the game between Derbyshire and Pakistan this week, Dominic Cork returns to the squad after his injury disrupted winter.
Robert Croft retains his place in the absence of Ashley Giles who is still recovering from a Achilles tendon strain. He is the only full time spinner in the squad but is thought to be unlikely to play with England expected to rely on four seamers and the part time, but increasingly effective, off-spin of Michael Vaughan.
"Everyone seems to think Crofty is simply coming along to make up the numbers," Graveney said. "With the weather being so unpredictable, we believe spin could still play a part in this Test."
Left-handed batsman Ward, 28, scored centuries in three successive Busta Cup games on the A Tour, and was widely tipped for promotion, but admitted that his call-up was a dream come true.
Certainly it has been a remarkable few years for the Surrey opener. He was originally released from the Oval staff as an 18-year-old, but through hard work and plenty of runs in club cricket earned himself another chance. A brilliant fielder, Ward also has a sound technique and has become a steady accumulator of runs without taking too many risks.
"After I'd been released by Surrey at 18 just to get in county cricket with them a few years later was fantastic," he said. "Now, for this to happen and potentially playing in your first Test at Lord's, has got to something every little boy dreams about."
He also described how beneficial the A Tours have been for his game: "I learnt so much from the A tour, for example I batted all day for the first time in my career and although you can talk to coaches and other players about things like that, nothing beats the experience of actually doing it."
"All sorts of players were discussed, but if the A team is going to have any meaning, we have to reward the players who have done well," explained Graveney, before pointing out Ward's experience of playing with Saqlain Mushtaq at Surrey.
"He has got to know Saqlain well which is an important consideration, he's a good fielder and he has played a big role in Surrey's championship successes over the last couple of years."
Graveney admitted that there was a need for the selectors to look at some younger players too, with the majority of the squad exceeding 30 years of age.
"I think we have learned during our experience with Marcus Trescothick that there is a brave new world out there with some good young players and they need to be given a chance to see if they can adapt to Test cricket," Graveney said.