LAST week I wrote about how important it was for some of England’s fringe players to step up and stake a claim for a regular Test place during the tour matches that precede the upcoming series in India.
So I have been delighted to see Samit Patel do just that in the first two warm-up matches, proving his worth as an all-rounder by hitting a first England century and grabbing a few important wickets.
I’m sure captain Alastair Cook and the England selectors will want to pick two spinners for the Tests, and Patel has pushed himself ahead of Monty Panesar in the pecking order to join regular twirler Graeme Swann.
The team has to have balance, and with Patel likely to bat at six in the order, as well as being able to bowl 15 to 20 overs, it’s a nice position for Cook to be in as he ponders next week’s first Test.
The other bowling selection issue facing England chiefs is which seamer to pick, with Steven Finn, Graham Onions and Tim Bresnan vying to join guaranteed choice James Anderson.
Patel’s likely inclusion – and with Matt Prior at seven, Stuart Broad eight and Graeme Swann nine – means there is little need to worry about the relative batting abilities of the three candidates, which will dent Bresnan’s chances.
I’m a huge fan of Finn, so I’d love to see him included and partner Anderson with the new ball, but doubts remain over his fitness, which would leave it a coin toss between Onions and Bresnan.
At the top of the order, I was pleased to see Nick Compton enhance his hopes of earning a Test debut and opening the batting with Cook with a half-century in the second tour match. It took him a while – the innings was slow and steady, and came after two cheap dismissals in his previous innings – but it’s his style to get stuck in and graft. He has worked very hard for his chance so I wish him luck.
I hope Cook, meanwhile, responds well to being in the spotlight like never before, as he prepares for his first Test and series as permanent England captain.
His predecessor Andrew Strauss struggled for runs in his last few months and all skippers do at some point. The same will happen to Cook eventually, but he’s in good form and I hope he can keep it up now, when it really matters.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer who has acted as captain and chairman of Warwickshire.