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England names unchanged squad

GELLING WELL: England will be looking to the likes of Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Michael Vaughan and Monty Panesar to do well.

GELLING WELL: England will be looking to the likes of Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Michael Vaughan and Monty Panesar to do well.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: AFP

Ted Corbett

LONDON: If the selectors’ plans work out England will be unchanged for the fifth Test in a row when the third and final match of the series against New Zealand begins at Trent Bridge on Thursday. They have not achieved that run of consistency since 1884-5 when 13 players toured Australia and those were very different days.

The trip by way of Egypt was arranged by Arthur Shrewsbury (later raised to iconic status by W.G. Grace’s off-the-cuff remark ‘Give me Arthur’ when asked to pick his favourite team), the former England captain James Lillywhite and the great bowler of maidens Alfred Shaw.

At a time when amateurs were at the height of their power and influence, the party contained only professionals.

Shrewsbury was captain, Lillywhite acted as umpire and Shaw as manager which meant that they had a bare 11 players and not much time was wasted in selection committee meetings.

England won the series 3-2 but it has never picked five unchanged teams in a row since.

It came close to winning the Ashes back in 2005 when Paul Collingwood played at the Oval in the fifth and final Test instead of Simon Jones who is, so it seems, bowling well enough for the selectors to consider bringing him back for the next defence of the Ashes a year from now.

Time for injuries

Of course, as the national selector Geoff Miller pointed out, there is time for injuries to occur before the third Test begins, but it is clearly his intention to leave alone the team that has won three of four Tests since the most drastic change of recent years. Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard were dropped after the first Test defeat in New Zealand and have not played since.

Miller writes off Collingwood’s run of low scores as a temporary blip. “We know what a quality player and quality man he is. Form is temporary,” said Miller. He declined to see any weaknesses in his side, praised Monty Panesar for making victory in the second Test possible with his six for 37 and said all his top seven batsmen were comfortable batting in their present positions.

For all its recent togetherness, this team will have to be changed at some stage. Miller appeared to envisage a rotation policy in the future and there is always the mighty presence of Andrew Flintoff to be accommodated and the giant shadow of the Twenty20 tournaments hanging over those England players with one eye on their bank balance, i.e. all of them.

Astonishing

South Africa (three times), Australia (twice) and West Indies have all fielded unchanged sides in five successive Tests since that astonishing performance by England in Australia 123 years ago and all in relatively modern times. On six occasions between 1881 and this present run England has fielded the same team in four consecutive matches.

I wonder how modern cricketers would have coped with travel by ship, an itinerary that had to be changed when it was found that there was an outbreak of cholera in Naples, a dust storm in mid Test, travel by stage coach and arguments about whether Lillywhite or Shaw should be allowed to umpire.

They would recognise one aspect of the tour. They were invited to play in New Zealand but, in the words of one historian, the terms were so poor that the invitation was declined.

The squad: Michael Vaughan (captain), Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Tim Ambrose, Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom, Monty Panesar and James Anderson. 12th man: Chris Tremlett.

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