England’s selection a bit clearer

I’ve said a few times before that I don’t think England are well advised to select bits-and-pieces players just for a special occasion like India and that therefore Samit Patel should not play. I stand by the first part, but Patel has furnished solid evidence in the first warmup that he could be able to hold his own in the side as a batsman and if he can do that then there is no reason he should not play. He scored 104 in England’s first and only innings and came in when England were under a bit of pressure. Only Alastair Cook made a higher score. I would not say that this guarantees him a place; we still have yet to see what Jonny Bairstow can do and it is a bit harsh to drop him after the excellent innings he played at Lord’s. But Patel made his century against a fairly strong attack and certainly a stronger one than Bairstow will face when he gets a chance. I think Bairstow will have to be very convincing to force a place from here and given the selectors’ clear preference to having someone who can bowl a bit it may already be an impossible task.

The warmup match also clarified the bowling selection, albeit in an unfortunate way. Steven Finn started as the favourite for the final bowling position, but he picked up a thigh injury early on and missed the rest of the match. He is not a doubt for the tour as a whole, but there is little chance of his playing the first Test unless he can guarantee to Flower and Cook that he is one hundred per cent fit and I doubt that will happen. With Patel looking very likely to play that also reduces the chance that England will try to give Monty Panesar a game as a second spinner, meaning that the last bowling place appears to be down to Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions. Bresnan is certainly the initial favourite, as evidenced by the fact that he was chosen ahead of Onions to play in this match in the first place. He also took 3-59 and scored 33 not out to put Onions in a very similar position as Bairstow with two warmups remaining.

The only selection issue that was opened up more was that of Cook’s new opening partner. Nick Compton was given the first crack at the role, but lasted just three balls and failed to score. Unfortunately for him, since India A batted first he did not get a second chance in the match. He likely will in at least one of the remaining warmups, but Joe Root will also get a shot to prove that he is the best option instead. Compton is still probably the favourite until Root makes a strong case otherwise, but I actually would not be surprised to see Cook sit out one of the next two warmups and have Compton and Root go head-to-head.

There was other bad news for England as well. They did manage to put up a good score overall, but five of their wickets fell to the part time spin of Yuvraj Singh. Singh is rather better than Kevin Pietersen’s memorable assessment of him as a ‘pie-chucker’, but it is still a touch worrying that England still pick out the spinner to whom to give their wickets. The good news at least for England was of Singh’s five wickets one was a tailender, one had a century and one had fifty. The dismissals of Pietersen and Ian Bell are both issues that will need to be addressed, but it is at least not as panic inducing as a proper collapse.

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