The notable inclusions of Monty Panesar and Ravi Bopara in England’s Test squad to face Pakistan are evidence of faith placed in the selectors’ “watchword” consistency.
Panesar’s return as second spinner for the trip to the United Arab Emirates – his last Test was in July, 2009 – is a continuation of the policy which saw him picked in the same capacity for last winter’s Ashes tour.
The left-arm orthodox played precious little part Down Under, save for a memorable catch in the tour match in Hobart which belied his reputation in many quarters as a hapless fielder.
But Panesar is nonetheless the most recent man in possession of the role as off-spinner Graeme Swann’s understudy.
Likewise, Bopara was the selectors’ choice to deputise for the injured Eoin Morgan and Jonathan Trott in England’s middle order for their last Test (against India at The Oval) and Steve Davies, again included to travel to the United Arab Emirates, was Matt Prior’s wicketkeeping cover in Australia.
The words of national selector Geoff Miller were far from empty as he spelled out the thought processes behind a recall for 29-year-old Panesar, who has had to take a back seat since the emergence of Swann as one of England’s world-beaters.
“Consistency has been our watchword for a long time,” said Miller.
He was also able to report a collective clean bill of health for a clutch of first-choice players who have been out injured and, in two cases, undergone surgery since their last England appearances.
Morgan is fit to resume in the middle order, having had an operation on a SLAP lesion in his shoulder which became apparent at the start of the NatWest Series victory at home to India.
He and pace bowler Stuart Broad, who also suffered a shoulder injury later in that same one-day international campaign, missed the return series in India, in which shell-shocked England subsided to a 5-0 defeat.
Chris Tremlett has been out longer since his back problem surfaced before last summer’s Trent Bridge Test against India, while fellow seamer Yorkshire’s Tim Bresnan has missed no cricket despite elbow surgery.
England squad: AJ Strauss (capt, Middlesex), JM Anderson (Lancs), IR Bell (Warwicks), RS Bopara (Essex), TT Bresnan (Yorkshire), SCJ Broad (Notts), AN Cook (Essex), SM Davies (wkt, Surrey), ST Finn (Middlesex), EJG Morgan (Middlesex), MS Panesar (Sussex), KP Pietersen (Surrey), MJ Prior (wkt, Sussex), GP Swann (Nottinghamshire), CT Tremlett (Surrey), IJL Trott (Warwicks).