England have named a 13-man squad for the second Test against South Africa at Headingley and there is one surprise omission. After I said after the first Test that I did not think that Bopara would be dropped, he was left out of the squad due to ‘personal reasons’. Whilst obviously I, and I suspect everyone, hopes that all is well with Bopara this is a boost for England. I don’t know how many times I have said that he should not be in the side. In his place comes James Taylor, now of Nottinghamshire. It is interesting as it does seem to be a slight case of selection on potential. Taylor is a very good, very talented player who had a very poor 2011 (which may have cost him a place in the Test side at the time). He has had a better 2012 and he is an excellent choice, but Nick Compton is in better form. Still, Taylor very much deserves his chance and it is probably overdue. Hopefully he gets the extended run that Bairstow (rather unfairly) did not. Unless the personal reasons are long-term, I do expect Bopara will be back soon so Taylor cannot assume that he will have long in which to prove himself. Hopefully he gets a big score immediately and makes himself very hard to drop.
The rest of the squad of 13 is unchanged, so there is once again the possibility that England will play five bowlers. I would still be very surprised if it actually happens, but the performance at the Oval certainly looked a bowler short. Though I do expect a four-man (three seamer) attack, the exact composition of it may change. There is a suggestion that Stuart Broad was perhaps not entirely fit at the Oval and if he is still carrying a niggle then he should not play at Headingley. It is also possible that Finn could come in for Bresnan after the latter did not look particularly good in the first Test. Though as I said after the Test it would be harsh; Bresnan really looked no worse than the rest. It looks necessary to get some variation into the attack, however, and Bresnan is probably the odd man out if that is what happens.
My preferred XI, assuming Broad is fit, would be: Strauss*, Cook, Trott, KP, Bell, Prior†, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Anderson, Finn.
My predicted XI, taking into account the previous selection preferences and again assuming that Broad is fit, is: Strauss*, Cook, Trott, KP, Bell, Taylor, Prior†, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Anderson.
If Broad is not fit I would replace him with Onions (batting at eleven) in my preferred XI and Finn (also batting at XI) in my predicted XI.