England’s next Test match begins on Friday against Bangladesh in Chittagong, and in the past few weeks there has been much speculation regarding the potential make-up of the side. I think that England will go into the game with two spinners, playing both Tredwell and Swann, supported by three seam bowlers. Michael Carberry opened in both innings in the warm-up against Bangladesh A, an indication that he may well open the batting on Friday along with Alastair Cook. However, it is likely that Jonathan Trott will open due to his performances for England in the past, and Ian Bell will bat at number three, with Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood to follow. Despite Craig Kieswetter’s century in the final ODI it is extremely unlikely he will be picked, and I fully expect Matt Prior to be behind the stumps and batting at number six. I would then anticipate Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan to be at seven and eight respectively, provided that Broad is fit to play – some back pain caused him to miss the final ODI. Swann and Tredwell will probably both play, and the final place will be given to one of Ajmal Shahzad, Liam Plunkett and Steven Finn.
Although he has been recognised as England’s premier batsman for several years now, Kevin Pietersen is enduring a torrid run of form: in the tour of South Africa, Pietersen only averaged 25.28 with a highest score of 81 in four Test matches. In the ODI games against Bangladesh he averaged 13.66 with a highest score of 41 from three games; and then in the warm up three day match he could only manage scores of 2 and 20. There have been calls for Pietersen to be dropped from the side, but he could still be recovering from the Achilles injury that hampered him during the Ashes series and kept him out of the England squad for several months last year. The series in Bangladesh should be seen as an opportunity for Pietersen to regain his form and dominate bowling attacks, although he will have to contend with Bangladesh’s array of slow left-arm bowlers (three have been selected in the squad for the opening Test), his supposed technical weakness.
Eoin Morgan played very well in the ODIs against Bangladesh with scores of 33 (40 balls), 110* (104) and 36 (29). His superb unbeaten century in the second ODI means he has potentially put himself into contention for the Test team. His audacious style of batting is very popular with fans; he is noted for his sweeps and reverse-sweeps, as well as his sheer hitting power – he hit a remarkable 67 off 34 balls (featuring four 4s and five 6s) against South Africa in the ICC Champions Trophy in September; 85* off 45 balls (seven 4s and five 6s) against South Africa in the T20 series in November; and most recently, 67* off 51 balls (seven 4s and two 6s) against Pakistan in a T20 international in February, the prelude to the current Bangladesh tour. Although Morgan is unlikely to break into the team just yet, his performances will certainly provide healthy competition for the rest of the squad.
James Tredwell was not particularly impressive in the only ODI he featured in, taking 0-52 off ten overs. However, he ripped through the Bangladesh A line-up in the first innings of the warm-up match claiming 6-96 in 27.2 overs, which contained eight maidens. In the second innings he was less destructive, recording figures of 2-57 off 21 overs, including seven maidens. I think he will be given a chance come Friday due to the likelihood of a turning wicket being prepared. His main task will be to support England’s main spinner, Graeme Swan, as well as providing respite for the seamers in potentially difficult conditions.
Regarding the seam bowling department, England have some decisions to make. Ryan Sidebottom has been removed from the squad due to a thigh injury and Bresnan has replaced him in the squad. Graham Onions has officially been ruled out of the first Test with a back injury, and the England staff will be hoping that Broad does not succumb to the same fate. Supposing that both Broad and Bresnan play, then there will be just one remaining berth, which could be taken by Shahzad, Plunkett or Finn. Shahzad was impressive in the T20s opening the bowling, although he was less effective in the final ODI where he took 1-55 from his nine overs. Plunkett, whose last England appearance had been in 2007, made his comeback in the final ODI where he only bowled two overs for twelve runs – his lack of overs suggests he will not be selected. Finn impressed in the warm-up game recording figures of 2-13 from seven overs and 1-20 from eleven overs. He is a 20-year old bowler, very tall (6ft 7in) with a touch of pace, and he may receive a surprise debut on Friday.
Cook’s captaincy has not come under any real scrutiny so far, but his batting appears to have flourished under the new responsibility; in the ODIs he recorded scores of 64 (68 balls), 60 (61) and 32 (43). Both he and England will be hoping that this form continues into the Test series, and that England can claim another whitewash, as they did in the ODI series.
Probable starting line-up: