England recall Ravi Bopara for SA opener
England recalled Ravi Bopara in a 13-man squad announced on Sunday for the first Test against South Africa at The Oval starting on Thursday.
Now in line to bat at number six, the seam-bowling all-rounder was given a chance to add to his tally of 12 Test caps, the last won against India in August last year, also at The Oval, after impressing with 182 runs and four wickets in the 4-0 one-day series thrashing of Australia completed earlier this week.
Bopara had been set to be included for England's home Test series against the West Indies but the 27-year-old injured his thigh playing for county side Essex the day before the first Test squad was announced.
He was replaced by Jonathan Bairstow but the Yorkshire batsman struggled in his maiden Test series, scoring just 38 runs in three matches in a 2-0 win concluded with a rain-affected draw in the finale at Edgbaston.
"Ravi Bopara has worked hard to regain his place in the Test squad following some injury concerns earlier in the season," national selector Geoff Miller said after the squad was announced.
SA may topple England
England may be the the world's top-ranked Test side but South Africa will replace them at the summit of the International Cricket Council rankings if they win this three-match series.
"We have played some very good cricket over the last couple of months in all formats to win series against the West Indies and Australia—and after a month of limited-overs cricket, preparations are now under way for what is sure to be a very competitive Test series against South Africa," former England off-spinner Miller added.
"We know we will need to play excellent cricket to win this three-match series, and the squad will be determined to start with a strong performance this week during the first Test and set the tone for the rest of the series."
England included seamers Graham Onions and Steven Finn, selected for the rain-marred clash at Edgbaston where first-choice new-ball duo James Anderson and Stuart Broad, also both included, were rested.
With Anderson and Broad back, the selectors—should England stick with a four-man pace attack—must decide between Tim Bresnan, Onions and Finn for the remaining seam bowling spots.
Both Bresnan and off-spinner Graeme Swann have been suffering with elbow injuries recently. But the lack of another specialist slow bowler in the squad suggests England are confident Swann will be fit to face the Proteas.
Meanwhile Kevin Pietersen, as expected, returned to the Test squad having missed the one-day series against both the West Indies and Australia following his retirement from limited overs internationals.
The star batsman warmed up for his latest clash with his native South Africa by scoring a superb double century for Surrey against county champions Lancashire this week.
England first Test squad
Andrew Strauss (captain), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Matt Prior (wicket keeper), Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Graham Onions.