England in India, 2008-09 September 29, 2008

Shah wins place in tour squad

Cricinfo staff

Owais Shah has been named in the Test squad to take on India in December © Getty Images
Owais Shah has been preferred to Ravi Bopara for a place in England's squad to tour India for two Tests during December. The final batting slot was the main decision for the selectors after their announcement at the weekend that Michael Vaughan wouldn't be picked.

Bopara was named in the squad to face South Africa, at The Oval in August, and enjoyed a prolific season for Essex which appeared to put him in line for a place. However, Shah made his Test debut in Mumbai in 2006, making 88 and 38, and is likely to play all seven preceding ODIs to find some form ahead of the Tests.

"Owais has done very well this year and he performed well last time England were in India," said national selector Geoff Miller. "It's a further opportunity for him to build on his success with the one-day side this year and his inclusion in the squad will create real competition for places within the batting unit."

Miller added that Vaughan could still join up with the performance squad during the winter. "It is a possibility...we could use that," he told Sky Sports News. "There's a lot of opportunities for him to play. It's all about winning matches and sessions and we'll look after Vaughan as much as we can. We could look at that or send him out somewhere in the world.

"Andrew Strauss came back and did well after a break and Vaughan will hopefully do that as well, " he added. "Going abroad might put his mind right. We will organise where he goes so he can try and get back in the side. We know what he is capable of."

Tim Ambrose and Matt Prior have been named as the two wicketkeepers, but Prior is the favourite to take the gloves for the Test series after reclaiming his one-day place against South Africa. However, Ambrose will join up for the duration of the limited-overs series as back-up.

"Matt has enjoyed an impressive domestic season with Sussex and having re-established himself in the one-day side, he will now compete with Tim Ambrose for the position of Test wicketkeeper," Miller said. "Matt remains our first choice keeper in the one-day game, but Tim will join the squad in India as reserve wicketkeeper for the duration of the one-day series.

"They both go out there on an equal [for the Tests]," Miller added. "Those decisions will be made by captain and coach once conditions have been taken into consideration."

The best keeper this season has been James Foster, but he didn't expect to get a call from the selectors. However, his omission from the performance squad is a major surprise.

"With fellow wicketkeepers Matt Prior and Tim Ambrose both having been awarded incremental contracts it shows my chances are slim - otherwise why offer them contracts if they aren't going to be selected?," he wrote in his Cricinfo diary.

"It's disappointing because I feel I've had a good season with the bat and gloves in all forms of the game," he added. "In general, I feel I've been very consistent over the last four to five seasons and my skills are improving all the time. That doesn't seem to be enough for the England selectors but I'll keep plugging away."

The spin cover for Monty Panesar comes from Graeme Swann, despite Adil Rashid's 62 wickets this season and the claims of Samit Patel. Swann provides enough batting skill to slot into the lower-order if England opt for two spinners in a match, while Rashid will spend valuable time with the performance squad who are in India at the same time as the main tour.

Ryan Sidebottom has joined the quick bowlers who faced South Africa at The Oval and during the one-day series. A few months ago he was the first name in England's bowling attack, but he picked up a series of injuries and lost his zip in the second part of a long season. However, his work over the last 18 months counted heavily in his favour and he's a quality reserve to have on the sidelines. The only concern, if he plays, will be the rough created for Harbhajan Singh.

The performance squad will arrive in India on November 19 and will then join up with the main tour ahead of the second Test in Mumbai. Four Kent players - Robert Key, Joe Denly, Amjad Khan and Robbie Joseph - have been named despite the club's Championship relegation, while Middlesex left-hander Dawid Malan has also earned a place.

Test squad Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen (capt), Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Owais Shah, Matt Prior (wk), Tim Ambrose (wk), Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad, Steve Harmison, James Anderson, Ryan Sidebottom, Monty Panesar

Performance squad Tim Bresnan, Mark Davies, Steven Davies, Joe Denly, Robbie Joseph, Rob Key, Amjad Khan, Sajid Mahmood, Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan, Stephen Moore, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Ollie Rayner, Jonathan Trott