England v New Zealand, 1st Test, Lord's May 11, 2008

Miller wants reserves to force issue

Cricinfo staff


Ravi Bopara could earn a recall if Paul Collingwood doesn't recover from his shoulder problem ahead of the first Test © Getty Images
 
Geoff Miller's first Test squad as national selector included 12 of England's tried and trusted players. With Andrew Flintoff ruled out of the first two matches against New Zealand, the most significant decision has been put on the back-burner for another few weeks at least. The return of Matthew Hoggard is the most notable move, but even that was expected after his solid start to the season.

The one issue still hanging over the squad is the fitness of Paul Collingwood, whose right shoulder is causing him problems, but Miller didn't see the need to name an official stand-by. "We've got cover, we know where we are going but I don't think it is necessary to announce 13," he told Sky Sports News. "In that eventuality we are in a position to deal with it."

The two most likely candidates should England need a replacement are Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara. Both have been in action for England Lions against the New Zealanders but haven't stamped their authority on the match at The Rose Bowl. Shah made 43 in the second innings while Bopara failed in both innings and was given only one over in New Zealand's first innings.

Bopara started the season with a bang for Essex, passing fifty in his first six innings and scoring two centuries, while Shah has been steady for Middlesex. Shah travelled around all winter with England without a chance in the Tests, but Bopara would be able to fill in for Collingwood's medium-pace.

Luke Wright's form has caused some interest with his 120 for the Lions coming when they were in trouble at 89 for 5 on the first day. But despite being given more responsibility with the ball for Sussex, and bowling at decent pace, he only bats at No. 7 for his county and would be a surprising, if exciting, choice.

"It is about forcing the issue. We are looking to peripheral players not to be just knocking on the door but banging it down," Miller said. "We have one or two players who are knocking very hard."

One player who isn't banging very hard on the door is Steve Harmison, who was dropped alongside Hoggard after the defeat to New Zealand in Hamilton. He has taken four wickets at 40 in two Championship matches and Miller said he wants to see more from him.

"I had a chat with Steve the other day and explained the situation. We need Steve to be bowling, as he can bowl, at 90 miles-an-hour and if he is doing that, getting wickets and his confidence is back then we will reassess it.

"At this moment in time he needs to be getting those performances in for Durham and we are allowing him to do that. His mood is pretty good, he knows where he is, he knows he didn't perform like he can perform in that first Test match in New Zealand and he is trying hard to get form back again - we will back him all we possibly can."