England news July 10, 2011

Broad and Bresnan fight for Test spot

Stuart Broad faces a vital week for the short-term prospects of his England place after being dropped for the deciding one-day international at Old Trafford on Saturday. His county, Nottinghamshire, have a Championship match against Somerset starting on Monday and Broad will need wickets to avoid being overtaken by Tim Bresnan.

It had been considered that Broad was so highly rated as part of the player-management structure within the England set-up that he would survive the axe, especially after finally opening his wicket tally with two scalps on his home ground at Trent Bridge. However, when England wanted to alter the balance of their team and include Samit Patel as a second spin option, it was Broad who made way with Jade Dernbach retaining his place.

Broad had been carrying a heel problem since the end of the Sri Lanka Test series and also hurt his ankle in training before the Twenty20 in Bristol, where he made his captaincy debut, but Alastair Cook didn't hide why the decision had been made.

"We wanted to play two spinners," he said. "We picked Jade ahead of Broady, and that's why we changed it. It doesn't mean that Broady won't come back in. It's obviously a tough pill for him to swallow, but his record in one-day cricket is outstanding. Just because he hasn't taken the wickets he would have liked doesn't mean he won't be back."

It was a view echoed by Andy Flower, the England team director, who added that the extra rest will benefit Broad and suggested that he was still very much in the planning to face India. "A nice by-product of him missing this game is that he will have a four-day break from bowling between the fourth one-day international that he played and the four-day game that he will play for Nottinghamshire," Flower said.

"After that he can have another four-day break to rest those niggles and then get into training for the Test match at Lord's. Broad's been a superb performer for us, a great competitor - and I foresee him doing great things for us in the future, both in this upcoming Test series and the one-day series."

The decision showed that Cook, in consultation with Flower, wasn't afraid to make tough selection decisions even if it involved dumping a fellow international captain. However, it is England's three-captain policy which continues to throw up intriguing situations, as it is now Andrew Strauss who will have a major say on Broad's place in the Test team.

While Broad is bowling at Trent Bridge - a good venue for a seamer to try to regain form and confidence - other contenders for his place will be looking to stake their claims. At the head of the list are Bresnan and Steven Finn, the former who made a successful return from injury during the one-day series with eight wickets at 29 including 3 for 49 at Old Trafford while Finn was in the one-day squad without playing. Chris Woakes, the Warwickshire allrounder, also couldn't get a game but he's some way off Test selection at present.

"We wanted to try out a couple of new fast bowlers," Flower said. "Jade Dernbach has got his chance in this series, but we also had Steven and Chris in the squad. I think they've both got a future. There is a lot of competition for fast-bowling places. We'll see how they develop over the next couple of months. Whether they get a go in the Tests or not, I'm not sure, but I think they've both got futures in the limited-overs game."

Yorkshire have a Championship match against Worcestershire which will allow Bresnan some extended spells of bowling after his one-day return, but Finn doesn't have a four-day game available with Middlesex not in Championship action. It was the situation that forced Strauss to ask Somerset if he could appear for them against India later in the week.

Finn was the next in line when a replacement was needed against Sri Lanka, at Lord's, but at that time Bresnan, who was outstanding at Melbourne and Sydney during the Ashes, was still on the sidelines. Finn was inconsistent at his home ground but still finished the match with four wickets.

Away from Bresnan and Finn, the other option could be Graham Onions if England wants a wicket-to-wicket bowler. Again, though, the scheduling isn't helpful for Onions - who missed the whole of last season with a severe back injury - as Durham aren't in four-day action before the first Test.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo