Ravi Bopara was the surprise inclusion as England named their 15-man squad for the Champions Trophy today.
Essex’s Bopara has not been selected for either of Ashley Giles’ 50-over squads since he took control of the limited-overs side and looked to be fighting for his international future, but he edged out fellow all-rounders Samit Patel, Rikki Clarke and Luke Wright.
Everything else was as expected, with Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan both named in the squad having returned to fitness after both suffering elbow problems.
With Kevin Pietersen already ruled out with a troublesome knee complaint Yorkshire’s Joe Root, who has taken to international cricket with aplomb, was unsurprisingly picked among the batting contingent.
The only other area of debate in a squad that will also contest the NatWest Series against New Zealand was the spare seamer, a position handed to Giles’ former Warwickshire protege Chris Woakes instead of Surrey’s Jade Dernbach.
But it is the selection of Bopara that will raise eyebrows.
He has not played for England since last September after compiling just 22 runs in four innings against South Africa.
At the time he appeared desperately short of confidence and it was no surprise to see him left out of the one-day trips to India and New Zealand earlier this year.
England, though, have been persuaded to take another chance on a player who averages 30.62 in 83 ODIs.
As well as his batting, Bopara can also be a highly effective seam option in English conditions and that may have helped tip the balance in his favour, particularly when weighed against Patel’s left-arm spin.
Root’s county team-mate Jonny Bairstow will provide the main competition for Pietersen’s batting spot in a dual position of back-up wicket-keeper and spare batsman.
England are committed to a top three consisting of captain Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, with Eoin Morgan also a certain pick in the middle order.
Meanwhile, Somerset’s Jos Buttler, a bar-emptying batsman with an impressive array of shots, has impressed sufficiently to go into the tournament as first-choice keeper ahead of Bairstow.
Swann’s understudy is James Tredwell, who has excelled when called on in recent times, while Bresnan and Woakes joins Steven Finn, Stuart Broad and James Anderson as the pace attack.
National selector Geoff Miller said: “The ICC Champions Trophy provides this England squad with a great opportunity to win a global 50-over event, something we have yet to achieve, and we are excited to be playing on home soil.
“We are fully aware that with the best eight sides in world cricket competing against each other we will need to play a very high standard of cricket over a three week period to give ourselves a chance of winning the title and we are very much looking forward to the challenge.
“We know that the three-match series against New Zealand will be very challenging and we will need to play some very good cricket if we are to repeat the success we had against them earlier this year and build momentum leading into the ICC Champions Trophy.”
ENGLAND CHAMPIONS TROPHY SQUAD…
AN Cook (Essex) (Capt), JM Anderson (Lancashire), JM Bairstow (Yorkshire), IR Bell (Warwickshire), RS Bopara (Essex), TT Bresnan (Yorkshire), SCJ Broad (Nottinghamshire), JC Buttler (Somerset) (WK), ST Finn (Middlesex), EJG Morgan (Middlesex), JE Root (Yorkshire), GP Swann (Nottinghamshire), JC Tredwell (Kent), IJL Trott (Warwickshire), CR Woakes (Warwickshire).