The Investec Ashes 2013 July 27, 2013

Pietersen injury main England issue


England's selectors are likely to delay a decision on Kevin Pietersen's availability for the third Investec Test at Old Trafford by naming him in an expanded squad on Sunday morning, which will include batting cover in case his calf strain does not recover.

Pietersen has been undergoing extensive treatment since picking up the injury on the second day of the Lord's Test, and is likely to be given another couple of days to show whether he will be able to get through five days in Manchester. Had these been back-to-back Tests, Pietersen would have been ruled out, but the 10-day break has worked in his favour.

England, though, will not take any risks, and are unlikely to be overly concerned should Pietersen's injury keep him out. He remains a crucial asset to the team, but apart from an important 64 in the second innings at Trent Bridge, has had a stuttering start to the Ashes series, and England will feel they can cover for his absence.

James Taylor, currently playing for Sussex against the Australians, remains the leading candidate to provide batting cover (and come into the side if required), and was unbeaten on 64 at the end of the second day.

It would be a quirk of fate if it were to be Taylor who replaced Pietersen, given the stories that emerged following his Test debut against South Africa, at Headingley last year, where he had an extended partnership with Pietersen, although may not have overly impressed his senior team-mate.

After being abruptly dropped after his two appearances against South Africa, and not even named in the England performance squad at the start of the season, Taylor was told to churn out the runs at domestic level and work on some technical flaws which concerned the selectors, specifically his ability to handle deliveries outside off stump.

His performances for Nottinghamshire, where he has made 824 runs at 58.85 in the Championship, mean he has done all he can at county level to make the selectors consider him again.

The other batsmen who would perhaps come under consideration all have significant issues against a call-up. Eoin Morgan has yet to play first-class cricket this season (although he did train with England during the Lord's Test), Ravi Bopara has picked up a side strain which has prevented him from bowling and playing in Essex's recent Championship match against Leicestershire, while Nick Compton, dropped shortly before the Ashes began, is not a like-for-like middle-order replacement.

Given England's healthy position in the series, and the success of the bowling attack at Lord's, there is no overwhelming need to tinker with the bowlers, although the conditions at Old Trafford will be taken into consideration. In the past, before the square was turned to face north-south instead of east-west, it was renowned for pace, bounce and, later in the match, spin.

The pace element remains a slightly unknown factor on the new pitches - although last year's Twenty20 against South Africa saw the ball flying through from the quicks - but there has been plenty of evidence that spin remains a key weapon. In Lancashire's previous Championship game against Glamorgan, Simon Kerrigan, the left-arm spinner, took 12 wickets in the match.

Kerrigan's impressive Championship season where he has taken 44 wickets at 19.72 (making him the leading spinner in the country) continue to mark him out as an England player in waiting, but if a second spinner is required on this occasion it remains likely that the selectors would opt for Monty Panesar especially after his solid showing against the Australians at Hove.

At home, however, and even taking into account Australia's issues against spin, it will take an awful lot for England to select an attack with two spinners, especially while they continue to have an major impact with the reverse swing found by James Anderson and Tim Bresnan. Joe Root, with three important wickets in the series, has also shown he is a more-than-handy option with the ball.

Probable squad Alastair Cook (capt), Joe Root, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Jonny Bairstow, James Taylor, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Graham Onions

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • GeoffreysMother on July 28, 2013, 6:35 GMT

    I imagine that a few people would prefer Taylor to play this test to give a bit of competition to Bairstow. I very much want Jonny to nail the number 6 spot, because like Pieterson, he bats at pace and can take the game away from the opposition. He is the third highest scorer in this series and averaged 45 against New Zealand - but he could do with a big innings to make the spot his own. Competition from Taylor, who has done very well - but is a different sort of batsmen, might help focus the mind. Interestingly it sounds like it was Hamilton Brown who played that sort of attacking innings yesterday, and perhaps took the pressure of Taylor which gave him time to get througha scoreless phase at the start of his innings.

  • Dummy4 on July 28, 2013, 4:17 GMT

    Kevin is woefully out of touch of late. Not the same batsman he used to be sometime back. England would hardly miss him

  • Daniel on July 28, 2013, 3:36 GMT

    DonRaj and whatawicket having a nightmare here.

    Hasnt conributed for a long time? His 64 in the second innings of the first test, in partnership with Bell was vital and his last test before that was a 73 in NZ. 3rd highest scorer (overall, not for England) in the India series too.

  • Dummy4 on July 28, 2013, 0:01 GMT

    What a shame if KP's injury was too bad for him to play in the next Test and Taylor the young talented English batsmen was selected instead

  • John on July 27, 2013, 22:23 GMT

    I see no reason at all even to consider Panesar unless Swann is carrying an injury. Swann and Root are well capable of carrying the spin department without weakening the batting and fielding. The only thing I'd like to see, if the wicket does take spin, is Swann bowling more round the wicket to right-handers with a couple of slip fielders for the ball that goes straight on. If, as looks likely, Bird will replace Pattinson, there won't be much rough outside the right-handers' off stump anyway.

    Taylor's made runs in the Sussex game and has had a good season so he gets the nod. It would be utterly ridiculous to consider Morgan on ZERO FC innings this season, Bopara's injured and Compton's an opener, though I suppose Root could drop down if needed. Personally I'd like to see Ballance given a shot, but his time will come.

  • Graem on July 27, 2013, 21:21 GMT

    @ SDH12 Picking a young 2nd Division spinner to make his Test debut when you have an experienced spinner with a proven match winning record at Test level is the sought of thing that the australian selectors would do and something that I don't think England would dream of. Panesar is the leading wicket taker of the spinners this season in division 1, he is in-form as he demonstrated on Friday, he has a great record at Old Trafford and would probably be an automatic first choice spinner for any Test nation apart from England and Pakistan. Kerrigan is a good young spinner with a promising future, but he will probably have to wait at least 5 years before he makes a Test debut.

  • Michael on July 27, 2013, 21:08 GMT

    Hopefully KP will be fine and all this will have been just a reassurance for Taylor that he is in the mind of the selectors which is important. It does not matter that he is just making county runs as he is young enough and if players do not progress beyond Lions for a few years it may be to their advantage. He will play more Tests and the stronger his grounding the more he will succeed when he gets a regular spot. As a like for like replacement for KP I have my doubts though he would be for Bell more easily. Who though is a dead ringer for KP? Possibly Taylor's batting partner down at Hove-RHB- who gives the ball a fearful crack but is not yet ready to play Tests. Good to see him back in the runs though.

  • Karun on July 27, 2013, 19:57 GMT

    I don't think Australia would mind James Taylor. Btw Bird looks an exciting prospect! If he's the line & length people say he is & we have a fit Harris. I think that will make things even with anderson. Just need pup & a few others to get some runs! I just don't see australia losing this next test! Its been too many loses!

  • Samuel on July 27, 2013, 18:56 GMT

    Seems straightforward enough - Taylor in as KP cover, sorted. Think England should at least name a second spinner in the squad though, just to give themselves the option if the pitch looks a really dry one. For me it'd be Kerrigan in at his home ground, with either Finn dropping out for more bowling in the Championship (which is exactly what he needs - to sort out his run-up problems away from the spotlight) or Onions, who they never seem serious about playing anyway, but Panesar could consider himself unfortunate if he was looked over too. Doubt it will be too much of an issue seeing as the rain's rolled back in and therefore I doubt the pitch will be as bone dry as it might have been, but I think it would be wise to cover that base.

  • Chris on July 27, 2013, 18:53 GMT

    I think the last time James Taylor played for England he was run out. Trott called him for a ridiculous fourth run whilst trying to save a test. I always hoped that he would get another chance.

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