England’s selectors won’t be overly taxed in deciding on the squad for the first Test against India which will be announced today. The only place to be nailed down is the third fast-bowler’s position and whether Stuart Broad retains his spot ahead of Tim Bresnan or Steven Finn.
Broad’s match haul of 6 for 162 against Somerset, which included 5 for 95 in the first innings, is likely to be enough to spare him the axe following his demotion from the one-day side for the final match against Sri Lanka at Old Trafford. Reports from the game at Trent Bridge, where he had a tough contest with Marcus Trescothick, were that he was finding his rhythm again.
“From my point of view, he bowled with good pace, moved the ball off the pitch and through the air, and to get five wickets was a fine return,” Chris Read, Nottinghamshire’s captain, said during the match. “He has been among the leaders of the England attack in the last couple of years. He is still a young bowler who bowls at 90 mph and we all know what he can do with his height and the bounce he can generate.”
Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower are big supporters of what Broad brings to the team but the decision to drop him last week has shaken up the pecking order despite Broad being Twenty20 captain. If he does keep his place at Lord’s he’ll need to start taking significant hauls after claiming eight wickets in the three matches against Sri Lanka and just two in the one-dayers.
The selectors, though, will name 12 so that means a place for either Bresnan or Finn which will keep Broad on his toes in the lead up to the Test. Bresnan missed the chance to build on his successful Ashes series – where he helped secure victories at Melbourne and Sydney – by picking up an injury at the start of the season, which meant Finn earned a chance against Sri Lanka when James Anderson strained his side.
Unlike Finn, Bresnan has had a Championship match to get mileage in his legs. He took four wickets and hit 41 against Worcestershire, at Scarborough, and it was clear how much England rate him when he was brought straight back into the one-day side for the Sri Lanka series having recovered from injury.
He is also a steadier operator than Finn and would give Strauss control which will be important in keeping a tight hold on a strong India batting order. However, Finn has shown the priceless ability to take wickets even when not bowling consistently and is the fastest England bowler to 50 Test scalps.
Away from the competition for Broad’s position the England side is set in stone after Eoin Morgan’s steady return against Sri Lanka. The opening Test will mark another change in the captaincy as Strauss regains control from Alastair Cook following his 3-2 series win in the ODIs against Sri Lanka. It will be an interesting few days for Strauss as he reasserts his authority while also deciding the immediate future of a fellow international captain.
“It is not like we are doing radically different things – Alastair, myself and Stuart – we are still operating within a general strategy which we have all had a hand in formulating,” Strauss said. “So it’s not as though the side has completely gone one way and then it’s completely gone somewhere else.
“It should be a fairly smooth transition, I think. I’m in a position to come back and let guys know what my plans are and what I expect of them over the course of four Test matches. I’ve spoken to Alastair as well. The whole communication aspect between the three captains is important, and that’s something I’m trying to focus on.”
Strauss, himself, spent valuable time in the middle against India when he made 78 for Somerset at Taunton. It provided an early taste of his battle with Zaheer Khan and Strauss comfortably came out on top following his problems against Chanaka Welegedara earlier in the summer, but it promises to be a fascinating confrontation during the series. (Cricinfo)