The question of who should bat at number six for England in Sri Lanka straight choice between a pair of wristy Anglo-Asians, Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara, though one feels Mark Ramprakash would have been more likely than either to score a hundred on tour. Bopara is the 'three-dimensional' choice: in addition to his batting, he is a fine fielder and a useful change bowler. But it would be risible to suggest Bopara's bowling is of the potential to change a game; his first-class average of 49 illustrates as much while, in England's ODI side, Paul Collingwood's presence often means Bopara does not have to bowl at all.
So unless England are guilty of real muddled thinking, the Bopara-Shah dilemma will be resolved simply by whomever the selectors believe will score more runs. Shah is a richly talented stroke-maker who has finally established himself in the one-day side. He is in his prime now; his confidence is high; and if he will ever truly 'make it' as a Test batsman it probably must be now. His superb 88 on debut in India last year was indicative of a man with the qualities to succeed in Tests. Bopara has immense promise but has flattered to deceive in the one-day side, his World Cup 52 withstanding. The time is now to see if Shah, for so long marked out as a future England star, can thrive as a Test batsman.
Tomorrow: Harmison, Anderson or Broad?