The Investec Ashes 2013 July 24, 2013

Four vie for chance to replace Pietersen

The potential replacements should Kevin Pietersen not be fit on August 1

James Taylor's guest appearance for Sussex against the Australians presents him with a chance to push his claims to make his Test return at Old Trafford if Kevin Pietersen is ruled out of the match through injury.

England are optimistic that Pietersen will recover from his calf strain in time, but if not, they face a tricky choice about who should replace him. It goes to show that even England do not quite have a plan for everything.

James Taylor (Nottinghamshire)
Age 23, Tests 2, Runs 48 at 16.00

James Taylor has joined Nick Compton in guesting for a county against the Australians at England's request, but he can't assume that if he makes runs it will automatically lead to a place at Old Trafford. Compton repelled the Australian attack in successive games at Taunton and Worcester but could not salvage his England spot.

It would be appropriate if Taylor was recalled for Pietersen because it is the figure of Pietersen which hovers around his England career. He shared a 147-run stand with Pietersen, as very much the junior partner (Taylor made 34), against South Africa at Headingley last summer, and acquitted himself well enough, but his chaste congratulation of Pietersen after he reached his hundred was that of a young batsman still seeking to make his way and accentuated his diminutive size which some contend leaves England wary.

When the Pietersen furore was at its height, there were also suggestions that Pietersen had been none-too-complementary about his ability - suggestions that Taylor routinely dismisses. He has had a good season in the County Championship, with 824 runs at 58.85 and his coach, Mick Newell, has suggested that he is ready for a recall. If England select on county form and fitness, Taylor is the only candidate.

Ravi Bopara (Essex)
Age 28, Tests 13, Runs 575 at 31.94

There were enough signs in Bopara's approach in the Champions Trophy which invited the question whether he might yet have his best Test days ahead of him. There was a conviction about him that had been lost at international level and he came out of the tournament with his reputation enhanced. For him to suffer a side strain playing county cricket, with a potential eight-week lay-off, represents cruel timing. England pressed Essex to leave him out of their recent Championship match so his injury did not worsen, but surely they would not allow him to enter a Test carrying an injury. Their concern is much more likely to surround his ability to bowl in the NatWest Series against Australia.

Nick Compton (Somerset)
Age 30, Tests 9, Runs 479 at 31.93

Nick Compton's removal from the top of England's order at the start of the Investec Ashes series was signalled so emphatically by Geoff Miller, the national selector, that it is hard to imagine his return in a reshuffled line-up. Miller made it sound as if England had taken a view, leaving Compton shocked and emotional. It would be feasible for Compton to slot back in at No. 6, with an eye to the second new ball, and until his loss of form against New Zealand in May, his Test career had been a decent one. He played well against the Australians, too, in tour matches at Taunton and Worcester, the latter at England's request. But England are 2-0 up and they will prefer to maintain the balance of batting styles. Compton for Pietersen, however much you shuffle, is a more defensive set-up. A Championship average of 42.54 this season does not particularly push his case either.

Eoin Morgan (Middlesex)
Age 26, Tests 16, Runs 700 at 30.43

It was observed in these columns when Morgan was scoring healthily in IPL that if anybody would expect to pop straight from one-day cricket into the Ashes without bothering with much Championship cricket along the way it would be Morgan. All it would take would be an outstanding Champions Trophy, an injury in England's top six, and all the niceties about his preference for IPL ahead of preparing for Test cricket could be forgotten. He is a centrally-contracted player after all, and relishes the high-pressure occasion. But Morgan broke a finger in the Champions Trophy semi-final against South Africa and required an operation as soon as the tournament was finished. His Middlesex appearances have been limited to a first-ball duck in a YB40 tie against Yorkshire at Radlett and, on the Middlesex message boards, they have been speculating that this will be as good as it gets. For all that, he was still seen in the nets at Lord's during the second Test with England's batting coach Graham Gooch.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Graham on July 26, 2013, 11:22 GMT

    @RowhanJ - have you seen Hales's first-class record this season? It makes hilarious reading... he has talent but the time is definitely not now!

  • Robert on July 26, 2013, 10:25 GMT

    Why no Gary Ballance on the list? To me this is the ideal opportunity to blood the next new talent rather than give a one off reprive to one of the nearly men. For me its either Taylor or Ballance.

  • Paul on July 26, 2013, 9:23 GMT

    Please no Bopara or Morgan!! Let them play the limited overs if they have to... Taylor is my choice followed by Crompton.

  • John on July 26, 2013, 7:20 GMT

    @SDH12 on (July 25, 2013, 9:33 GMT) Re Luke - I notice he seems to be omitted from the recent T20 games which seems strange. I know Craig played either for the Lions or a B side before the seniors called him up.

  • Rowhan on July 26, 2013, 1:12 GMT

    Hales for me is a good young talent who seems to relish the pressures of international cricket, that or Taylor for me

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2013, 19:01 GMT

    Carberry has to be a rank outsider. FC average of 40 this season in the 2nd division doesn't speak of a man in form.

    I'm surprised Samit Patel has dropped so far in the reckoning, I think at test level his bowling is no more than a bonus (not sure he'd be ahead of Root at 3rd change for example). But 824 runs @ 48.47 is a good return and he'd got 3 centuries this season, top score of 256.

    Another outsider who has played for the Lions is Varun Chopra. I'm a Bears fan so would hate to lose him as it might be relegation from div1!! Again he's an opener like Compton so doesn't seem a good fit for Pietersen replacement, but 848 runs @ 49.88 whilst having to worry about newly captaining what was until recently a really struggling side betokens him maturity at only 26.

  • Tom on July 25, 2013, 16:00 GMT

    Rather than Compton replacing Pietersen lower down the order, what about opening with him and moving the versatile talent of Joe Root back down to six (with Bell moving up to five)?

  • Richard on July 25, 2013, 14:47 GMT

    As an avid Yorkshire fan, you can forget about Rashid. His return to form has been great to see this season, but he's far from being an England player. His bowling, for a start, just plain isn't good enough. Far too many half-trackers and four balls. And if he's going to be picked for his batting, he needs to prove himself over a longer period. His record with the bat until this season was good, but nothing startling.

    As an avid Yorkshire fan, I am surprised that Ballance isn't on this list. He's terrific. He bats at five more often than not - not six - and has a very well organised game. It should be Taylor though, and if not, I'd go for Lumb.

  • Nicholas on July 25, 2013, 12:44 GMT

    @David Hopps: "It goes to show that even England do not quite have a plan for everything." - Who ever said they did, and why on Earth did they? They certainly never seem to have a plan for getting out tail-enders; if (heaven-forbid!) anything should happen to Swann, do you really reckon Panesar will be the automatic shoe-in, or (surely?) England would want to look at other contenders for the premier spinner (Tredwell; Briggs; Rashid; Kerrigan etc. etc.)?

  • StJohn on July 25, 2013, 12:31 GMT

    There is another option - pick a 5th bowler! With a lower middle order of Prior, Bresnan, Broad and Swann, in principle there's enough batting depth to play only 5 specialist batsmen. The trouble is, England's top order has been fairly weak and Prior hasn't been in great form either. But I'm not sure that picking a 6th specialist batsman would necessarily compensate entirely for that. I think 5 bowlers could be a good option. Depending on what the pitch is like, maybe even Panesar might worth a go.

    If we go for a 6th batsman, I'm not sure that there's really much between Compton and Taylor, is there? Both are quite steady and unlikely to score as quickly as an in-form Pietersen. So not sure that Compton would be inherently any more defensive an option. Given our own batting frailties, someone who can occupy the crease and build an innings would probably do nicely. But a 5th bowler would be my preference!