Pakistan v England, 1st Test, Dubai January 15, 2012

Tremlett ahead of the pack

Four bowlers and one allrounder are in the running for vacancy created in the England line-up by Tim Bresnan's injury. ESPNcricinfo takes a close look at the contenders

Steven Finn

Age: 22. Tests: 12. Wickets: 50. Average: 26.92

The fastest of England's seamers, Finn surely has a fine future at this level. He has already set a record as the youngest Englishman to 50 Test wickets and, with three five-wicket hauls in just 12 Tests, has a compelling record as a wicket-taker. He isn't the finished article just yet, however, and a propensity to leak runs at almost four-an-over may well count against him. Indeed, he was omitted after the Perth Test at the end of 2010 for that very reason and has only played one Test since. He was a rare beacon of excellence among the mediocrity of England's limited-overs tour to India before Christmas, however, and appears to have added reverse-swing to his armoury in recent months. Might have to wait just a little longer.

Chris Tremlett

Age: 30. Tests: 10. Wickets: 49. Average: 25.67

Perhaps Tremlett will never completely shrug off his unjust reputation of a somewhat diffident, work-shy individual, but his performances since leaving Hampshire and joining Surrey at the start of 2010 have been excellent. He played a key role in the Ashes success of 2010-11 before helping destroy Sri Lanka in a crazy session at Cardiff a few months later. Injuries intervened, however, not for the first time in his career, and he has had to wait for Bresnan to pull out before winning another chance. Tall, quick and with the ability to generate horrid bounce, Tremlett also has a good economy rate - he concedes, on average, a run fewer an over than Finn - and looks to be favourite to win a recall.

Graham Onions

Age: 26. Tests: 8. Wickets: 28. Average: 31.03

There were times not so long ago when Onions thought his career might be over, so serious was the back injury he sustained. For that reason, he is delighted just be in the England set-up again after almost two years on the sidelines. He has many commendable characteristics as a cricketer: he bowls admirably straight, rarely wasting a delivery and, possessing decent pace, can move the ball in the air and off the pitch just enough to trouble the best batsmen. Perhaps a few question marks still linger over his fitness, however, and he would appear to have a few in front of him in the queue for a place. Promoted to the full squad only after Tim Bresnan was forced home through injury (Onions was with the squad as back-up until then), the Durham seamer may have to wait a little longer to play his first Test since Cape Town in the first week of 2010.

Monty Panesar

Age: 29. Tests: 39. Wickets: 126. Average: 34.37

When he made his Test debut in 2006, Panesar was tipped to be a feature in every England Test side for a generation. The emergence of Swann, however, and the perceived inability of Panesar to develop his skills, means that he hasn't represented England since the first Ashes Test of 2009 and, even then, his more memorable contribution came with the bat.

In many ways, he hasn't changed much. He bowls quicker than most spinners and, with his accuracy, flight and turn, presents a tough proposition for any batsman. Some will suggest that he lacks subtlety but, had it not been for dropped catches, he might have finished the 2011 domestic season as the leading wicket-taker. He out-bowled Swann in the warm-up matches in Dubai and, on pitches unlikely to provide much assistance to the seamers, might well prove more adept at keeping an end tight and applying pressure than any of his competitions for this role. He's moving ever closer to a return, but he may still have to wait for the tour to Sri Lanka.

Ravi Bopara

Age: 26. Tests: 12. Wickets: 1. Average: 212.00

A distant prospect this but England could have considered playing Bopara ahead of Eoin Morgan to make use of Bopara's bustling medium-pace. They could also have omitted Morgan to make space to play three specialist seamers and two specialist spinners. Under the 'consistency of selection' policy, however, it seems unlikely that England will change their tactic of selecting six specialist batsmen. Bopara's record of just one Test wicket doesn't scream his case, either.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Anver on January 17, 2012, 7:36 GMT

    The tall Tremlett is a wicket taking bowler & definitely he should be in the playing XI..

  • John on January 17, 2012, 2:01 GMT

    First, bookkeeping: Graham Onions is 29, not 26. If he were 26, his future as a test cricketer would look much brighter. However, being the same age as Anderson and older than Broad, Bresnan and Finn, there doesn't seem to be much room for him unless England has a spate of injuries. Now, the spinners. Monty's style, pushing the ball through, might be more suitable to these conditions than Swann's more flighted deliveries. With slower pitches, the batsmen can just retreat into the crease and play Swann off the pitch. Swann might be able to adjust, but it's really hard to change a style in which you've bowled for years with considerable success. Obviously Swann will be first choice, given his record, but Monty will hopefully get a look in. It would be great if it was in this test.

  • Ned on January 16, 2012, 21:52 GMT

    Graham Onions is 26, not 29...

  • Dummy4 on January 16, 2012, 18:04 GMT

    For the first test against Pakistan I would play...

    Cook Strauss Trott Pietersen Bell Prior(wkt) Broad Swann Tremlett Anderson Panesar

    The line up gives flower and Strauss the bowling options which they require and gives the batsmen a chance to prize their wickets more highly. For too long in tests England have relied too much on the safety net of 6 batsmen and Prior. But on flatter pitches against a strong Pakistan batting line up 5 bowlers is a must. Picking Bopara would be crazy as his batting is not consistant enoughto warrant a place in the side and his bowling is fairly toothless.

  • Simon on January 16, 2012, 17:17 GMT

    Drop Morgan and pick Monty and Tremlett. Onions would be ahead of Finn for me purely because nearly every ball is aimed at the stumps (although his skiddy bouncer is suprisingly sharp). Finn is a bit too wayward for these flat decks.

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