Squad announcements, 2008 July 3, 2008

England name unchanged squad

Cricinfo staff


Andrew Flintoff: not yet ready for recall © Getty Images
 
England, as expected, have resisted the temptation to recall Andrew Flintoff to the squad for the first Test against South Africa at Lord's next week, and have instead put their faith in the same squad of 12 players who carried them to a 2-0 series victory against New Zealand last month. If, as is widely anticipated, the same starting 11 is named on the morning of the match, England will become the first country ever to name an unchanged side for six matches in a row.

England have won four out of five Tests since taking the dramatic decision to drop Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison for the Wellington Test back in March, and so it would appear that consistency breeds consistency. Miller, however, was ready to play down suggestions that the Test team become a closed shop.

"It is not a cosy club," he said. "There are people knocking on the door, youngsters and seniors, and everyone has got to perform. We left bowlers out in New Zealand, and that made a difference, and at one stage we left Andrew Strauss out. It's not a cosy club at all. If there was someone in the situation where they could overtake them and we thought they could perform better, then we would do that. But at this moment in time we feel we have got solid players, strong in technique and good mentally as well."

The one man who could really destabilise the status quo is Flintoff, who bowled with pace and hostility for Lancashire against Sussex earlier this week, before sealing victory with an unbeaten 62, his first half-century since May last year. "We've had long chats with Andrew and we've been in constant communication with him," said Miller. "We need to see a few more miles in the legs and runs from the bat, but England are a better side, as we know, with a fully-fit Andrew Flintoff. We just need to see a little bit more from him."

Miller did, however, concede that if Flintoff's comeback continues as it has begun, he would be in the frame for the second Test at Headingley, which gets underway on July 18. With that in mind, there are a host of players in the current settled line-up who might fear for their spot, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood among the batsmen, and James Anderson and Stuart Broad among the bowlers.

"Our focus is for the first Test, we'll see what that produces, then we'll reassess for the second Test," said Miller. "Andrew's got a chance and he knows it, but we're looking for him to be involved in all kinds of cricket - five-day, one-day and Twenty20 - so it's essential that we monitor him properly. We want him to be involved for a long time now."

The other threat to England's current settled situation is the fitness of their captain, Michael Vaughan, who reported soreness in his troublesome right knee while playing for Yorkshire against Durham earlier this week. He did, however, make 72 before being bowled by Steve Harmison - another player who is "knocking on the door" - and Miller reiterated his belief that there was no question about his availability. "It's an injury he's had operated on, so he's going to get niggles and twinges," said Miller. "But I had a chat with him in Yorkshire, we're monitoring him, and he's fine."

Such is England's confidence in their captain, they have once again chosen not to name a deputy. "We have contingency plans for the captaincy, but we won't make that decision until we have to," said Miller. "We've got senior players who've captained the side in different modes - Andrew Strauss, Paul Collingwood and Kevin Pietersen - so we'll make that decision when we have to."

Test squad Michael Vaughan (capt), Tim Ambrose (wk), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook, Monty Panesar, Kevin Pietersen, Ryan Sidebottom, Andrew Strauss, Chris Tremlett.

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