Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, and Steve Harmison have both been left out of England's pre-Ashes camp ahead of the much-anticipated series against Australia which begins later this month, but England named three spinners, including Adil Rashid, as the first Test at Cardiff is expected to offer turn.
The pre-Ashes camp squad of 16 includes Ian Bell, who was dropped following the defeat to West Indies at Sabina Park in the winter, along with Monty Panesar, Rashid, Andrew Flintoff and Tim Bresnan. Panesar has struggled for form this summer, turning in a worryingly poor performance in Cardiff last week when he took 2 for 149 from 44 overs, but Rashid impressed for England during their World Twenty20 campaign.
Harmison has had a productive couple of weeks in county cricket following his return from shin problems. In the recent Championship match against Warwickshire, at Edgbaston, he took 5 for 44 on a flat surface and gave the batsmen a real working over to make it 16 wickets in two games. Instead, the selectors have gone for Graham Onions, Tim Bresnan and Ryan Sidebottom as back-up to James Anderson and Stuart Broad, the first-choice seamers. Harmison was, however, selected for the England Lions squad to face Australia on July 1.
"The pre-Ashes camp is designed to give Andy Flower and the rest of the management team an opportunity to meet with the players ahead of their series and begin their preparations in earnest," Geoff Miller, the national selector, said. "We will continue to consider players outside the 16 chosen for the camp and will closely monitor performances in domestic cricket as the international season progresses. The door has not been closed on any player at this stage."
There was no place for James Foster, whose two deft stumpings during England's World Twenty20 campaign reminded everyone of his class behind the stumps. That mantle falls on the incumbent, Matt Prior, who has shown impressive consistency with the bat for England, even if he may not be quite the same standard of wicketkeeper as Foster. Prior is expected to bat at No. 6, and slotting in behind him will be Flintoff, who has completed two Championship matches for Lancashire where he has collected wickets and scored a half-century since returning from surgery.
Vaughan, who led England to regain the Ashes in 2005, has made only 159 runs at 19.88 for Yorkshire this season and, though he has made clear his intention to resume his international career, it seems increasingly unlikely unless, as Miller said, he scores a mountain of runs.
"Michael Vaughan will, of course, be disappointed not to have been included," Miller said. "But I met with Michael recently and he understands that he needs to make runs consistently in county cricket if he is to force his way back into the squad.
"We are pleased to welcome Andrew Flintoff and Ryan Sidebottom back to the Test squad after recovering from injury and Adil Rashid's inclusion reflects our view that he is maturing all the time as a cricketer and has the potential to develop still further."
An England XI are due to play a three-day match against Warwickshire on July 1, but the side selected for that game may still change for the first Ashes Test.
"We have chosen two spinners in our side to face Warwickshire, but this does not necessarily mean that we will opt for the same balance in our bowling attack in the 1st Ashes Test," Miller said. "An extra pace bowler still remains an option for our starting line-up at Cardiff."
The England Lions squad, meanwhile, is led by Ian Bell, who hasn't played for England since their defeat to West Indies at Sabina Park in the winter. The squad's pace attack features Harmison along with Sajid Mahmood, who has shown excellent pace for Lancashire this season, along with Graham Onions. The young Worcestershire wicketkeeper Steven Davies takes the gloves while there were places for Eoin Morgan, Vikram Solanki and Kent's Joe Denly.
The decision to appoint Bell captain is noteworthy. After he was told to "show more hunger" by Miller at the start of the season, he has since gone on to score 477 runs at 79.50 in the Championship, and his elevation to captaincy reflects the selectors' desire to hand him greater responsibility if he is to force his way back into the England team.
"In choosing the two teams for the matches at Edgbaston and Worcester, we were also mindful of the need to field a very strong England Lions side against Australia and the inclusion of four bowlers with Test match experience and Ian Bell as captain demonstrates this," Miller said. "We are keen to make the match at Worcester a tough one for Australia and plan to give all the players in the Lions team the maximum opportunity to press their case for selection."
The squad announcement for the first Ashes Test will be named on July 6, 24 hours later than originally planned, and just two days before the series gets underway.
England Test squad for pre-Ashes camp
Andrew Strauss (capt), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook, Andrew Flintoff, Graham Onions, Monty Panesar, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Adil Rashid, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann
England XI to face Warwickshire
Andrew Strauss (capt), James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ravi Bopara, Paul Collingwood, Alastair Cook, Andrew Flintoff, Monty Panesar, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior (wk), Graeme Swann
England Lions squad to face Australia
Ian Bell (capt), Tim Bresnan, Joe Denly, Steven Davies (wk), Steve Harmison, Sajid Mahmood, Stephen Moore, Eoin Morgan, Graham Onions, Adil Rashid, Vikram Solanki