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Friday, December 9, 2011

England announces its team for series against Pakistan to be held in UAE next year

England signalled on Friday that the plan to protect their world No1 Test status is exactly the same as the one that earned the title in the first place.

England have named Monty Panesar and Ravi Bopara in their 16-man squad for the three-Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.

Panesar was included as the second spinner ahead of Samit Patel, with Bopara the back-up batsman and Steven Davies the reserve wicketkeeper.

Eoin Morgan, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan have all returned to the squad after injuries.

Chris Tremlett and Steve Finn are also included in a five-man pool of seamers.

Left-arm spinner Panesar has not played Test cricket since the start of the 2009 Ashes series but has been included on the strength of a successful domestic season with Sussex in which he took 69 County Championship wickets at an average of 27.24.

Nottinghamshire's Patel was left out despite some promising all-round displays in the October one-day series in India, with Durham leg-spinner Scott Borthwick also overlooked.

Pace and bounce from one end, a bit of reverse swing thrown in and Graeme Swann for good measure is how England will approach their first ever Test series in the UAE next month.

The Test squad for the series against Pakistan, selected on Tuesday but announced this morning, is an Ashes reunion with Ravi Bopara for Paul Collingwood the only change from last winter’s sublime success in Australia.

Pakistan have adopted a policy of picking two spinners and the odd part-time twirler since making the UAE their adopted home but England no longer believe in the horses-for-courses culture that held them back in the 1980s and 1990s.

The team for the first Test is selected barring injury and perhaps the management’s greatest challenge is to find credible opponents for the two warm-up matches before the first Test. At the moment England do not know the nature or standard of their opposition.

Monty Panesar is back as the reserve spinner but it seems will play only if Swann is injured or ill. Picking two spinners would weaken the batting and Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss have been reluctant to do that ever since forming their leadership in early 2009.

England feel Scott Borthwick, the Durham leggie, needs more time with the A team and Samit Patel is not quite good enough at either discipline for Test cricket. Flower remains unconvinced about Patel’s fitness and, with this England management, there is little room for those who do not buy into the group ethos.

Bopara’s inclusion is another sign of the selection continuity that has characterised English cricket since the time of Duncan Fletcher and Nasser Hussain. Bopara deputised for Jonathan Trott against India and scored an unbeatean 44 in his last Test innings at the Oval. His ability to bowl a few overs of reverse swing is also handy for balancing the team if a first-choice batsman is injured.

Graham Onions has been placed on stand-by although that was not announced by England on Friday. Tim Bresnan is recovering from surgery on his bowling arm elbow and Chris Tremlett is now in South Africa at a training camp attempting to prove his fitness after a lengthy spell out with a back injury. Bresnan and Tremlett were the heroes of Melbourne and Sydney last winter but competition is strong among the seam bowlers, with Steven Finn’s excellent performances on the one-day tour to India in October making him a real contender for a return to the Test side.

Steven Davies is back as Matt Prior’s deputy, with England believing Jonny Bairstow needs more time to mature before being thrust into Test cricket.

Craig Kieswetter’s poor keeping in India and fears over his batting in Test cricket left Davies as the only real alternative even though he has not been involved with England since the end of the Australia tour.

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