LONDON: England chose an unchanged squad for the first Test against South Africa which begins at Lord’s next Thursday. If it picks the same eleven which played in the last two Tests in New Zealand and the three against the Kiwis in this country, it will set a world record of six Tests without a change.
Peter Moores, the head coach, has already said an unaltered side is the best option at present but when the 12 for Lord’s was announced there were hints that Andrew Flintoff may be back as soon as the second Test.
The team has been picked only for the first Test even though the second begins three days later and Flintoff has now made a strong enough recovery to be included in that second game.
If the selectors have the slightest doubt about his fitness or his form — he made his first fifty of the summer on Wednesday — they will not choose him even if that means no international cricket all season.
His side injury has healed and, although he could not take a wicket in Lancashire’s most recent game, batsmen who have faced him say his ferocity has not diminished.
Geoff Miller, the national selector, also spoke of his satisfaction at the progress made by two other fast bowlers who are knocking on the door.
“Simon Jones, one of the Ashes heroes in 2005, has been taking wickets for his new county Worcestershire and it would be terrific if he could come back in the way he bowled in the Ashes.
“Steve Harmison, dropped in New Zealand this winter, was bowling very well when I saw him earlier this week,” Miller added. Harmison has taken 30 wickets this summer at 23.73 and conceded fewer than three runs an over.
England may be forced to change before the first Test begins. Michael Vaughan, the captain whose record was tainted by the ICC’s decision to change the victory over Pakistan at the Oval in 2006 into a draw, has more problems with his right knee and is still having treatment.
Captain Vaughan’s record after the change enforced by the ICC now reads: 48 Tests, 25 wins, nine defeats and 14 draws.
Paul Collingwood has had a cortisone injection for a shoulder injury that may need an operation in the autumn. Ian Bell’s place was also debatable after a poor run in the Tests against New Zealand.
Both Bell and Collingwood will be under the microscope at Lord’s as England has not scored 400 in the first innings for 12 Tests and that could be important if the selectors have it in mind to bring back Flintoff.
The players will also be warned about the spirit of cricket following the criticism of Collingwood when the New Zealand batsman Grant Elliott was run out in the fourth ODI.
The squad: Michael Vaughan (Capt.), Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Tim Ambrose, Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom, Monty Panesar, James Anderson and Chris Tremlett.