Sidebottom in the frame for Headingley
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Ryan Sidebottom has earned a recall to England's squad for the fourth Test at Headingley, while Warwickshire's in-form batsman, Jonathan Trott, has been drafted in as batting cover for the struggling Andrew Flintoff, as England seek to bounce back from a chastening final day at Edgbaston.
Having begun the day with an outside chance of forcing victory in the third Test, England's attack was instead left looking toothless by Australia's middle order, in particular Michael Clarke and Marcus North, whose fifth-wicket stand of 185 saved the match with ease.
What is more, England finished the game with serious concerns about the fitness and form of two of their bowlers - Flintoff, whose dodgy right knee restricted him to just 11 overs in the day and left his participation at Headingley in serious doubt, and Stuart Broad, whose hit-the-deck style caused Australia few problems for the third match running.
Sidebottom's inclusion on his former home ground is a clear indication that England intend to use swing as their preferred route to Ashes success. Trott's inclusion, meanwhile, is a sure sign that the selectors are anxious about the fitness of Flintoff, as they seek extra batting cover in the event of having to rejig the balance of their side. Trott is currently averaging 99.75 in first-class cricket, but has not featured in an England squad since playing two Twenty20s against West Indies in 2007.
"Both players have been in good form for their counties in recent weeks and as selectors we are delighted that competition for places in the side is so strong," said the national selector, Geoff Miller. "Jonathan Trott has also performed really well for Warwickshire this season and his place in the squad is fully deserved. His inclusion will provide us with the option of playing six batsmen if we feel this is appropriate.
"We will continue to closely monitor Andrew Flintoff's fitness in the build-up-up to Headingley. His right knee will be reassessed by our medical staff over the next forty-eight hours and no final decision on his availability will be taken until closer to the start of the Test match."
Sidebottom's inclusion in the squad was telegraphed by an ECB request to his county side Nottinghamshire, who have been asked to omit him from their team for tomorrow's County Championship fixture at Horsham.
Though he has not played a Test for England since the tour of the Caribbean in February, when he struggled with an Achilles injury and managed just one wicket in 59 overs on tour, Sidebottom's accuracy and ability as a left-armer to bend the ball back into the right-hander has long been prized by the England selectors.
He was England's Player of the Year in 2008 after a remarkable return to the side after six years on the sidelines, in which he claimed 53 wickets in 12 months, including a haul of 24 in three Tests in a series-winning display in New Zealand. His comeback fixture took place in May 2007 at Headingley, where he learnt his trade with Yorkshire for six seasons from 1997, and he marked the occasion with eight wickets to set up an innings victory over West Indies.
Lateral movement has been England's key to success in an Ashes series in which they lead 1-0 despite being outbatted by six centuries to one in the three Tests to date. Australia's batting has crumbled on the two occasions when England have moved the ball consistently through the air - in the decisive first innings at Lord's, when they were shot out for 215, and then again on the second morning at Edgbaston, when they lost 7 for 77 in the session. Aside from those two occasions, Australia have amassed 1455 runs for the loss of 21 wickets.
"When a wicket's flat, it's flat, and it's very hard to kind of conjure something out of nothing," said England's captain, Andrew Strauss. "It's something we've got to keep working on, because all around the world these days a lot of the wickets are like that. We've got to keep working on our plan Bs, what we can do as variations. It's always a big challenge when there's not much happening on the pitch."
That's where Sidebottom's innate ability comes into the equation, having prised out five wickets on a typically flat deck at Taunton last week. Although Broad contributed some very useful runs at No. 8, and was praised by his captain for producing his best spell of the series on the final afternoon at Edgbaston, he has so far managed six wickets at 57.50, and it's becoming increasingly clear that England cannot afford to include two hit-the-deck bowlers against this current Australian batting line-up, especially if one of them, Flintoff, is less than fully fit.
Strauss nevertheless remains "optimistic" that Flintoff will be fit for Headingley. "There is obviously some soreness there but I don't think there's anything that has deteriorated massively over the course of the game," he said. "He needs to rest up well because back-to-back Tests are hard for any bowlers and we'll see how he is on Thursday. We want to play our best team in every game we play but we've got to be conscious that if he's not fit enough to do his job then he won't play."
Steve Harmison remains on standby as Flintoff's like-for-like replacement, having played through the pain of blistered feet to wrap up Durham's sixth Championship win of the series against Sussex yesterday. His second-innings figures of 3 for 68 took his season tally to 53 wickets at 19.37, and underlined his stated "desperation" to play a part in the Ashes.
"In choosing our squad for this Test match, we decided to omit a second spinner as Headingley is not usually a ground where two spinners are required and therefore Monty Panesar misses out on selection this time," said Miller. "We will need to carefully assess the pitch and the overhead conditions at Headingley before finalising our eleven for this Test and the inclusion of Stephen Harmison and Ryan Sidebottom will give us different types of pace bowling options."
Squad 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Ravi Bopara, 4 Ian Bell, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Matt Prior (wk), 7 Andrew Flintoff, 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Graham Onions, 12 Steve Harmison, 13 Ryan Sidebottom, 14 Jonathan Trott.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo