England bring in newcomer for test
JUST at a time when England needed some stability after the humiliating innings defeat at the Oval, No 6 batsman Ravi Bopara has pulled out of the squad for the second test against South Africa "for personal reasons".
The selectors have now called up 22-year-old batsman James Taylor for the problem position, the fifth change in nine tests.
Although Bopara failed to make his mark in the first test, scoring 0 and 22, it was expected that the selectors would stay with him. They did not consider Jonny Bairstow, whose technique against the short ball was exposed by the West Indies, Eoin Morgan, who was dropped after a poor series against Pakistan, or Samit Patel, who was given a run against Sri Lanka.
The selection for the Headingley test remains a bit of a gamble for England. Taylor seems to be in good form, making 163 off 265 balls for Nottinghamshire in the county championship match against Sussex yesterday, but before that it had been a lean season.
However, he did hit a century for England Lions against the West Indians. He has always been in the selectors' sights, but they needed him to prove himself at Division One level after four years at Leicestershire. The century was the ideal riposte, in which he showed maturity.
He puts his new form down to the higher level of cricket he is experiencing, which could augur well at test level. "The pressure was from myself, really, because I expect to score runs and know I can," he said after his landmark innings. "I felt it was only a matter of time. It has been a bit of a step-up to play against first division bowling, especially since the wickets have done so much this year."
The selectors have retained their options in the bowling attack and debate is raging over whether Tim Bresnan will make way for the tall and pacy Steve Finn. Bresnan, though, would be on his home ground and is regarded as a reliable work-horse, able to bowl long spells. It is unlikely that the selectors will drop Stuart Broad, who was way below his best at the Oval, conceding 118 runs from 34 overs.
Geoff Miller, the national selector, said: "We have played a lot of good cricket over the last few years and it's important we remember that. We must learn from the mistakes that we made and retain the belief that we can level this series at Headingley."
South Africa are likely to retain the same team, despite the barren form of opener Alviro Petersen on this tour.
England squad: Andrew Strauss (captain), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, James Taylor, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Graham Onions.