x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Bopara recalled to England squad for first test against South Africa

Selectors praise the Essex player's efforts in forcing himself into reckoning for the Test squad after previously missing out through injury.

England cricketer Ravi Bopara
England cricketer Ravi Bopara

Ravi Bopara looks set to play his first Test match in almost a year after being included in England's squad to face South Africa next week.

Bopara is one of the six batsmen in a 13 announced for The Oval match, which also includes Steven Finn and Graham Onions.

It was last August, at the same venue, that Bopara won his 12th Test cap during the innings victory over India which completed a 4-0 series whitewash.

Following Eoin Morgan's loss of form last winter, the Essex batsman seemed certain to return at the start of this summer - only to injure his thigh playing for his county the day before the squad was announced for the first Investec Test against the West Indies at Lord's.

Jonathan Bairstow was therefore chosen to make his debut. But the young Yorkshireman did not do enough in that 2-0 series win to retain his place for the first of three matches against South Africa, starting on Thursday and which will decide who tops the International Cricket Council rankings at the end of this summer.

National selector Geoff Miller noted 27-year-old Bopara's hard work to push himself back into the Test reckoning for such a high-profile match.

"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.

"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 Investec Test and set the tone for the rest of the series.

"Ravi Bopara has worked hard to regain his place in the Test squad, following some injury concerns earlier in the season, and is the only player included who is yet to play a Test match this summer."

England have kept their options open among the bowlers, by including Finn and Onions - both involved in the most recent Test, a rain-ravaged draw at Edgbaston last month for which James Anderson and Stuart Broad were rested.

With those two first-choice fast bowlers back, the only decision remaining for coach Andy Flower and captain Andrew Strauss - given England's long-held policy of a four-man attack - is to pick between Bresnan, Finn and Onions to complete the team.

Concerns over the fitness of Bresnan and off-spinner Graeme Swann, both nursing sore bowling elbows and therefore missing the final stages of England's NatWest Series win over Australia, appear to have proved unfounded.


England squad for first Test v South Africa: AJ Strauss (Middlesex, captain), JM Anderson (Lancashire), IR Bell (Warwickshire), RS Bopara (Essex), TT Bresnan (Yorkshire), SCJ Broad (Nottinghamshire), AN Cook (Essex) ST Finn (Middlesex), G Onions (Durham), KP Pietersen (Surrey), MJ Prior (Sussex, wicketkeeper), GP Swann (Nottinghamshire), IJL Trott (Warwickshire)


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