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August 10, 2009
News : England conundrum amuses Siddle
News : Ramprakash would 'cherish' England call-up
News : Ramprakash recall 'unlikely' - Surrey CEO
Players/Officials: Ravi Bopara | Geoff Miller | Mark Ramprakash | Marcus Trescothick | Jonathan Trott
Matches: England v Australia at The Oval
Series/Tournaments: Australia tour of England and Scotland
As England prepare for their must-win fifth and final Ashes Test, the clamour to recall Mark Ramprakash to strengthen a failing middle-order has increased, with Geoff Miller, the national selector, refusing to rule him out of contention, while Surrey's manager Chris Adams has described him as "the best batsman available for England".
Ramprakash, 39, has played 52 Tests for England, the last of which was in 2002. Since then, he has been in consistently sublime form for Surrey, culminating in becoming the 25th player to score 100 first-class centuries. Still fit and showing no signs of slowing down, even in his 22nd year as a cricketer, Ramprakash has again passed 1000 runs for the season and is averaging 100.75, albeit in the second division of the Championship.
"I'm not ruling anybody out," Miller told BBC Radio 5 live. "What we have to do as selectors is measure the quality of what they are doing in domestic cricket and whether they can do it internationally. There's a lot more pressure in Test cricket, it's a different game altogether.
"The players we have in the side are good enough to be international players. It doesn't necessarily mean, all of a sudden, that they are not good enough. We stay loyal with the players unless we feel it's completely necessary to make those changes.
"We will sit down and work out the best way forward."
England's middle order, however, is testing the selectors' loyalty. Contributing a paltry 16 runs for six dismissals in 17 overs at Headingley, the call for change is now deafening. Ravi Bopara made an impressive start to his career, with three hundreds in consecutive matches against West Indies earlier this year, but against Australia he has been found wanting, with 105 runs at 15.00. England's lower-order fared better; Graeme Swann managed 168 at 33.60, while Stuart Broad cracked 168 with two fifties.
Meanwhile, Ramprakash continued to make a compelling case for his reselection after hitting another hundred this week - an unbeaten 134 against Derbyshire, his 108th first-class ton. It follows his 274, made at The Oval against Leicestershire last week.
"If I was an England selector picking my best side, he'd be in it," said Surrey's cricket manager, Chris Adams. "He is playing the best cricket of his life. He has done so for three years. I believe strongly he has been the best batsman available for England for those three years.
"I know Kevin Pietersen would have something to say about that but from what I've seen from Mark this year he is an exceptional batsman, a batsman at the top of his game." Adams' comments echo those of Alec Stewart who today said Ramprakash was "the best player in the country by a mile".
Another name that will doubtless be mentioned is Marcus Trescothick, who became the first man to reach 1000 runs in the Championship this season, and has made 1330 runs at 78.30. He, however, has poured water on his possible reselection, and while his county captain, Justin Langer, believed he would be the ideal pick, he was doubtful whether it could possibly happen.
"It would be a massive call [to select Trescothick]," Langer told Cricinfo, "but he is a great player and you can't believe how well he's batting at the moment. I would not be surprised at all if he got a call asking whether he would play [at The Oval], but that would open up a big can of worms.
"Would it just be a one-off?" he asked. "Would he just play Tests that weren't overseas? Then you might get a situation where other players ask to not go on overseas tours. You've also got to think about the message you're sending to the younger players out there. Tres and Ramps are sensational players, though. I can't talk highly enough of them."
Jonathan Trott, who was in the squad for Headingley, has made 877 runs at 97.44, including three hundreds, but it seems unlikely England will opt for a Test debutant for a must-win encounter.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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For all his triumphs as England coach, Andy Flower ultimately got the balance between trusting people and numbers wrong