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February 6, 2014
England have sprung a surprise in the selection for their squad to tour the Caribbean and then travel to the World Twenty20, including an eye-catching batsman who also bowls capable offspin. Moeen Ali is not quite as box-office a name as Kevin Pietersen but, along with the uncapped Lancashire spinner Stephen Parry, his call-up was indicative of England's desire to begin a new era.
Harry Gurney, the Nottinghamshire left-arm seamer, has also been included an an extra bowler for the West Indies, where England will play three ODIs and three T20s. Otherwise, the group that were crushed 3-0 in Australia has remained largely intact, with Danny Briggs and Boyd Rankin dropped from James Whitaker's first squad as national selector.
Whitaker, who met on Wednesday with Ashley Giles, the limited-overs coach, and former team director Andy Flower to discuss selection, would not be drawn further on Pietersen's exclusion, referring to a "precarious situation in terms of what we can say" and citing legal reasons for the ECB's continued silence.
While Moeen, a former England Under-19s captain, has been tipped to play at international level for some time, Parry's selection will appear straight out of left field to some. However, the 28-year-old has built a solid reputation in limited-overs cricket at Lancashire and has 63 T20 wickets to go with an impressive economy of 6.86.
England appear to set to enter something of a spin cycle, after the retirement of Graeme Swann, and Parry could become the fifth slow bowler tried in a matter of weeks. Monty Panesar and Scott Borthwick were turned to in the final two Ashes Tests, before James Tredwell and Briggs suffered varying degrees of ignominy during the limited-overs leg of England's dismal tour.
The need to find a reliable spin option is all the more pressing, given the slow pitches expected in Bangladesh for the World T20. Parry has only played six first-class games, with Gary Keedy and then Simon Kerrigan blocking his way at Lancashire, and missed much of last season after breaking his arm in the nets. He spent the winter playing grade cricket in Perth.
"It goes without saying that I was absolutely delighted to have received the call from James Whitaker. I am still in a bit of shock," Parry told the Manchester Evening News. "It's always an ambition to play for your country and being in the squad brings that dream a step closer to reality."
Moeen, an elegant, wristy batsman who is currently on tour with the England Lions in Sri Lanka, has experience of T20 in Bangladesh conditions, having previously played in the BPL. In 2013, he scored more than 2000 runs and took 55 wickets in all formats. The fact that he can also bowl the doosra, after instruction from Saeed Ajmal at Worcestershire, will be mentioned in dispatches, though he has so far been reluctant to use it and may stick to more orthodox skills if given a chance.
"Both Moeen and Stephen have been very consistent performers for Worcestershire and Lancashire and both counties and their coaching staffs, must take credit for their continued progress," Whitaker said. "This group has an exciting mix of youth and Twenty20 experience and I am sure with good preparation, desire and determination they will be able to produce an exciting brand of cricket."
Moeen's first senior call-up provides Giles with another top-order option as he prepares for an extended chance to work with his first-choice squad - minus the disbarred Pietersen - and attempts to press his case for the vacant England team director role.
Giles, who with Alastair Cook and Paul Downton formed the triumvirate that decided Pietersen's future, may have been left questioning the wisdom of that decision when discussions turned to the Caribbean tour and the subsequent World Twenty20.
The preference of Stuart Broad, the T20 captain, is unknown, though he will have been consulted during Downton's review of the Ashes debacle. Broad, who has an official deputy in Eoin Morgan, will also captain in the West Indies ODIs, with Cook rested.
Whitaker, Giles and Flower, who remains a selector for the time being, will have considered that their top three in Australia scored just 88 runs between them in eight innings. Michael Lumb, Alex Hales and Luke Wright have performed well for England in the past - Lumb and Wright were part of England's 2010 World Twenty20 win, while Hales was previously the No. 1-ranked batsman in the format - but none has the reputation and intimidatory qualities of Pietersen.
When England lifted their first global limited-overs trophy four years ago, Pietersen was at his exhilarating best, finishing as Man of the Tournament. Now, as in Sri Lanka in 2012, his absence will weigh heavily on those England have chosen in his stead.
World Twenty20 squad: Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire, captain), Eoin Morgan (Middlesex, vice-captain), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), Ravi Bopara (Essex), Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Jade Dernbach (Surrey), Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Michael Lumb (Nottinghamshire), Stephen Parry (Lancashire), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), James Tredwell (Kent), Luke Wright (Sussex).
England squad to tour the Caribbean: Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire, captain), Eoin Morgan (Middlesex, vice-captain), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), Ravi Bopara (Essex), Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Jade Dernbach (Surrey), Harry Gurney Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Michael Lumb (Nottinghamshire), Stephen Parry (Lancashire), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), James Tredwell (Kent), Luke Wright (Sussex).
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Alan Gardner
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