BBC Sport cricket


Related BBC sites

Page last updated at 10:30 GMT, Wednesday, 29 April 2009 11:30 UK

Jonathan Agnew column

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

Ravi Bopara
Bopara is very talented but he does look rather casual early on, and this will be a huge step up for him - as well as being a wonderful opportunity

It makes a change to be surprised by an England squad these days but the team for the first Test against West Indies at Lord's will have a very different look to the one that underperformed last winter as team director Andy Flower looks to make his mark.

The biggest talking point has been the question of who would bat at number three and Ravi Bopara, who will be 24 next week, will be the third batsman in just five games to be entrusted with that pivotal position.

Bopara is very talented and scored a century at number six in Barbados but he does look rather casual early on and this will be a huge step up for him - as well as being a wonderful opportunity.

So, despite his good start to the summer, Ian Bell remains on the sidelines and I concur with the selectors' view.

To drop your number three has to be a big decision and not one that should be so quickly overturned.


While we all know that Bell is a fine batsman, he did not look happy at three and has failed to hit a hundred in any of his 16 Tests in that role.

The same observation can be made of Owais Shah, who was the last to fill that position. He looked dreadfully fidgety and ill at ease which is not the image you want in such a responsible position.

Michael Vaughan has the temperament for number three but not the form. His only hope is for Bopara to miss out in these two Tests, score a stack of runs himself, and hope that his maturity earns him a recall for the Ashes.

With Andrew Flintoff and Ryan Sidebottom injured, it might have been tempting to recall Steve Harmison but he remains firmly on the sidelines.

Instead, the selectors have chosen two promising northerners, Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions.

It means England have a very inexperienced seam attack with a total of just 50 Tests but a shake-up was needed.

Bresnan and Onions should both make their debuts next week, unless the unusual option is taken of playing two spinners so early in the summer. It is Lord's, mind you, where the last six Tests have all been drawn.

It is worth noting too that in Flintoff's absence, there is a change of balance with only five front-line batsmen being chosen ahead of Matt Prior at number six and Stuart Broad, who is now good enough to bat at number seven.

Print Sponsor

see also
England overlook Bell and Vaughan
29 Apr 09 |  England
Flintoff knee surgery 'a success'
28 Apr 09 |  England
England skipper Strauss hits form
28 Apr 09 |  Counties
West Indies in England 2009
04 Dec 08 |  Cricket
Windies hold on to clinch series
10 Mar 09 |  England

related bbc links:

related internet links:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites