Ashes: England look to the future with call-ups for Kerrigan, Woakes for fifth Test
Published: 19th August 2013 11:38 AM |
England’s 14-man squad for the final Investec Ashes Test, which includes the uncapped Simon Kerrigan and Chris Woakes, suggests the selectors are in experimental mood after opening an unassailable 3-0 lead.
Yet, that would be to misunderstand England's lust for winning when it comes to Australia, which means the pair are more likely to be part of a contingency plan for this winter’s return Ashes than any immediate strategy to win this series 4-0.
Kerrigan, 24, described his call-up as “a bit surreal,” but unless the pitch at the Oval is going to turn sharply by day two, the left-arm spinner, who is having a fine season with Lancashire, is unlikely to make his debut.
More likely is that Andy Flower, the team director, wants to assess him to see if he presents a realistic alternative to Monty Panesar, whose recent public shame requires, at the very least, a period of reflection from the player before he can be reconsidered.
Panesar’s problems – and they run deeper than his loutish behaviour in a Brighton nightclub – may need longer than a few months to salve.
It makes sense then, to give Kerrigan a taste of the Ashes atmosphere in case England need him as their second spinner this winter.
Flower is loath to tolerate indiscipline from players, especially when the incidents are entirely avoidable, as Panesar’s was.
But while he might feel tempted to move on from the increasingly erratically-behaved spinner, he will also be aware of a cricket culture that gives errant players a second chance.
Ricky Ponting, Andrew Flintoff and David Warner have all been the recipients of such largesse.
Much shorter than Panesar, and therefore less reliant on bounce, Kerrigan does, however, spin the ball more than his rival, as his 47 wickets at 20.25 in first-class cricket this season, including five five-wicket hauls and one 10-wicket haul, attest.
In fact, measurements taken at England’s National Performance Centre in Loughborough show him to be the closest finger spinner to Graeme Swann in terms of revolutions on the ball.
Kerrigan’s potential was identified by England’s Performance Programme three years ago, since when he has moved seamlessly through the levels.
Kerrigan is also said to be mentally tough, with an aggressive outlook on bowling.
Accordingly, the pasting Shane Watson gave him at Northampton on Sunday, in which Australia’s acting captain against the Lions belted him for seven fours and a six in 21 balls, will not affect him.
People who work and play with him talk of his strong and solid personality, traits now being integrated into his action as he seeks to add control and consistency to his nose for wickets.
“He’s loved bowling in tough conditions,” Peter Moores, his head coach at Lancashire, said.
“He’s always wanted to take on the best players and I think that’s what you need to go to that next level.”
Woakes, by contrast, has played one-day internationals and T20s for England and is no stranger to the atmosphere around big matches.
Yet the 24-year-old’s selection also appears predicated on trying a role for size, in his case that of Tim Bresnan now that the all-rounder has been sidelined with a stress fracture in his lower back, an injury he from which he may not recover by the time England set off for Australia on Oct 24.
Ideally, England would like to have someone of Bresnan’s batting ability at No8, but while Woakes ticks that box he lacks Bresnan’s potency with the ball.
Instead, the role is at the Oval likely to fall to Chris Tremlett or Steve Finn, the latter recalled after being dropped for Bresnan at Lord’s last month.
“Steve was dropped because by his own admission he was not bowling as well as he can do,” Geoff Miller, the national selector said.
“Consequently, he went away and worked on a few things and we feel he has made the necessary improvements to justify his inclusion.”
Tremlett is probably favourite to play given the Oval is his home ground, except that he looked light on pace for Surrey at the T20 finals day.
It might be that both he and Finn play and James Anderson is rested, though the last time England did that in a Test, against the West Indies at Edgbaston in 2012, it upset the dynamic of the team for several months.
In any case, Anderson needs to get back to taking wickets with the new ball, something he has not managed in Australia’s last four innings.
England squad AN Cook (capt), JM Anderson, JM Bairstow, IR Bell, SCJ Broad, ST Finn, SC Kerrigan, KP Pietersen, MJ Prior (wkt), JE Root, GP Swann, CT Tremlett, IJL Trott, CR Woakes.