A trip to India follows hard on the heels of the Antigua cash bonanza, which marks the start of England’s preparations for next year’s Ashes.
A seven match One Day series in India in mid-November would normally see a vastly different-looking team to one that performs in England, but only one change should really be expected. The spin department will require strengthening, so Swann will surely replace Wright in the first choice line-up.
Bopara will travel as reserve batsman and Mascarenhas’ ability to bowl cutters on the slower wickets should guarantee his recall. Tim Bresnan and Chris Tremlett will battle it out to join Sidebottom as back-up seamers and James Tredwell, a member of the preliminary 30 man Champions Trophy squad, could get the nod to provide a spin alternative.
The selectors might decide to take two wicket keepers, which will re-open perhaps their most discussed issue. That the same England keeper does not play more than three consecutive series is one of the safest cricket bets around.
Matt Prior is guaranteed a berth and Pietersen’s apparent desire for consistent selection might see the Sussex gloveman regain his Test spot. A readymade One Day understudy exists in Steven Davies – three fifties and two tons in six NatWest Pro40 knocks this summer – although a more experienced stopper will be needed to challenge Prior in the Test series.
James Foster’s expertise in standing up to Danish Kaneria for Essex this term might be a crucial factor and he has improved his batting form at the right time, hitting successive unbeaten Championship tons. Tim Ambrose and Phil Mustard have had disappointing seasons and will be surprised to see their names in either party.
Another key area for discussion in the Test squad selection will be the top order. Alastair Cook, Pietersen, Ian Bell, and Paul Collingwood are guaranteed selection in a 16 man squad, but the necessity for two keepers, three spinners and four seamers to supplement Flintoff means two of Michael Vaughan, Andrew Strauss, Owais Shah and Bopara will miss out.
Pietersen might be reluctant to have two former skippers in his Ashes side, so the out-of-form senior pair might be omitted, as it is important to have as many places in the team as possible stable ahead of the Australia showdown. Bopara and Shah’s selection would necessitate another move in the order for Bell, this time to opener.
Patel and Prior can be viewed as top six batsmen, allowing plenty of back-up to be taken in the fast bowling department, although Harmison should be properly prepared after taking part in the preceding One Day series.
There are plenty of common names on my parties for the first leg of the winter tours, which is the route I believe the current regime want to go down.
15 man squad for three Stanford matches: Pietersen, Bell, Prior, Flintoff, Collingwood, Bopara, Wright, Patel, Swann, Broad, Anderson, Shah, Mascarenhas, Sidebottom, Harmison
16 man ODI squad for India: Pietersen, Bell, Prior, Shah, Flintoff, Collingwood, Patel, Swann, Broad, Harmison, Anderson, Bopara, Mascarenhas, Wright, Tredwell, Sidebottom
16 man Test squad for India: Pietersen, Cook, Bell, Bopara, Collingwood, Flintoff, Patel, Foster, Broad, Anderson, Panesar, Shah, Prior, Swann, Sidebottom, Harmison