London, 7 July
England’s national selector Geoff Miller has said he wanted to give the team management more options by picking a fifth seamer in the England squad for the first Ashes Test against Australia at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, starting Wednesday. Miller is not one to give surprises while announcing the team, but he created a mild flutter by including an extra seamer in Graham Onions, thus skipper Alistair Cook and coach Andy Flower have to omit two fast bowlers on the morning of the match. "It is better to be safe and we wanted to give the captain and coach every possible option," said Miller.
Though the selector can explain the inclusion of Onions saying he bowls well to the left-handers and the Australians have plenty of southpaws and that Trent Bridge in recent years has helped the swing bowlers, it would be a big surprise if Onions gets into the playing eleven.
Onions, who played three Tests against Australia in 2009, has last played for England against the West Indies at Edgbaston a year ago and he got to play because Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad were rested with the series already won.
"We are satisfied with our preparations so far ahead of the first Test with both Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad recovering well from the injuries they picked up earlier this week. The squad will continue their hard work over the next few days and will be eagerly anticipating the start of the series on Wednesday at Trent Bridge," said Miller.
Star batsman Kevin Pietersen too returns to the Test squad for the first time since March following a knee injury.
The rest of the England squad is on expected lines with Nick Compton getting left out, despite batting well in his two games against the Australians, after Miller said Joe Root would be promoted to open the innings. The 22-year-old Yorkshire man does bat at the top for the county but has not done so far at the Test level. While an Australia attack featuring Peter Siddle and James Pattinson could yet prove a match for England seamers such as James Anderson and Stuart Broad, provided they remain free of injuries, the outcome of the series is likely to hinge on the performance of the tourists’ batsmen. Australia captain Michael Clarke apart, the visitors’ top-order does not boast another proven world-class run-scorer. When England won the last Ashes series in Australia in 2010/11 3-1, all three of their victories were by an innings — a reflection of their batting strength and Australia’s batting weakness. The hope expressed this week by former Australia all-rounder Tom Moody was that, just as in 1989 when Australia were written off ahead of the Ashes only to win 4-0, a new star batsman will emerge just as Steve Waugh did 24 years ago.
But former Australia captain Ian Chappell was gloomy about Australia’s prospects of regaining the urn.
"I just don’t see any way Australia can beat England," Chappell, who added he also expected England to win the return series in Australia starting in November, told the Guardian’s website in an interview.
Australia sacked coach Mickey Arthur just 16 days before this Ashes series and replaced him with Darren Lehmann after poor results, including a 4-0 series loss in India in March, were compounded by off-field problems.
South African Arthur, controversially dropped four players from the Test team in India, including then vice-captain Shane Watson, for failing to complete ‘homework’ while the early part of the tour of England was overshadowed by the ban, which expires with the first Test, given to batsman David Warner for punching home batsman Joe Root in a Birmingham bar.